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Daily Newscasts

Building a Bridge for Everglades Survival

July 2, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Everglades has been called the River of Grass, but conservation groups say it may be in danger of drying up without immediate bridging along the Tamiami Trail between Miami and Naples. Rebecca Garvoille, Everglades environmental policy consultant to the National Parks Conservation Association, says the trail blocks water flow into Everglades National Park, which threatens wading bird populations and the ecosystem as a whole.

"The Everglades is on life support. The trail has starved the park's northeast Shark River Slough of vital water and that has resulted in the deterioration of the park's unique ecosystems by causing the northeastern part of the park to dry up."

Garvoille says Congress has allocated $360 million in federal stimulus money for Everglades restoration projects this fiscal year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to break ground on a one-mile bridge, but their studies found the park needs closer to 11 miles of new bridges to restore the natural water flow. Garvoille says Congress directed the National Parks Service to immediately evaluate the need for additional bridging, and to develop plans expected to be unveiled early in 2010.

Elevating the Tamiami Trail is critical to the future of Everglades restoration, and a healthy Everglades would help protect against the effects of sea-level rise by creating a wall of fresh water, she adds.

"That wall of fresh water will literally be able to stem the tide of salt water intrusion. It will be able to push back the sea and help buffer south Florida from the effects of climate change."

Garvoille says restoration also could rev up the Everglades' role as what she calls an "economic engine." She says a National Parks Service study found every dollar spent in park-related recreation brings $4 to the local economy.

"The Everglades is the bedrock of the south Florida economy, the south Florida environment and our quality of life."

The restoration projects are an unprecedented opportunity to bring much-needed water to Everglades National Park, and for the government to make good on its commitment to preserve this national treasure for future generations, Garvoille concludes.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL