Statement of Senator Bob Graham
Everglades Oversight Hearing
September 13, 2002 9:30 a.m.
I want to thank Senator Jeffords and Senator Smith for holding this oversight hearing on the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
I also want to thank Senator Smith for his leadership on Everglades restoration over the past several years. His interest and dedication to restoring this natural treasure were instrumental in Congress= authorization of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000. I hope each of you here from Florida takes the time to thank him while you are here.
Over the years, I have been asked by many people -- what is so special about the Everglades? First, I tell them that they should come to Florida and visit for themselves in order to truly experience the Everglades. Then, I share my memories as a young boy living on the edge of the Everglades -- the serenity of the place, the diversity of its wildlife, the drama of the skies, and the clarity of its waters. After that, I describe the manipulation of the Everglades from this serene, river of grass into a funnel built for human purposes.
Today we are fortunate to have several Clyde Butcher photographs - renowned for his black and white photography of the Everglades - on display in the hearing room. I want to thank Clyde for generously sharing his work with us today and for his dedication to the Everglades. These photographs remind us of how the Everglades used to look throughout South Florida and bring to life what we are really discussing here today -- the restoration of an ecosystem brought to the brink of extinction by human activity.
This path to extinction began in 1948 with the authorization of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project. This chain of events culminated with the Everglades parks ending up on the list of the 10 most endangered parks in the country, according to the National Parks and Conservation Association.
The passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 was a conclusion to this destruction and closed a chapter in Florida=s history. Finally, we have turned the page in the history of the Everglades.
The passage of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the authorization of the initial phases of that Plan in WRDA 2000, are the beginning of the next chapter in the history of the Everglades restoration.
There are several key components in this chapter. They include WRDA=s authorization of ten critical projects in CERP, programmatic authority, and four pilot projects. These components are significant for four key reasons.
1) They embrace a true federal-state partnership for this restoration project by splitting the costs of construction, as well as operations and maintenance 50/50 between the parties.
2) They ensure that the result of our efforts will be restoration by providing “assurances” that the water generated by the Plan will, in fact, be delivered to the natural system.
3) They use a new paradigm for Army Corps of Engineers projects -- one that involves public participation and independent review.
4) They acknowledge the technical uncertainties with our body of knowledge about the Everglades and accommodate this information into project execution by using pilot projects, adaptive management, oversight, and scientific review.
Today, we are focusing on the implementation of the WRDA 2000 authorization. In part, we have asked our witnesses to provide a “state of the ecosystem” report and their views on the execution of the plan. We also ask for their views on the programmatic regulations released for public comment.
This last item is critical - the programmatic regulations are one of the cogs in the “assurances” wheel of the WRDA 2000 authorization. The regulations are to be issued with the concurrence of the Department of the Interior and the Governor of Florida -- a first in federal statute. The statute balances both restoration and primacy in state water law.
My concerns with the initial draft of the programmatic regulations centered on interim goals, the role of the Department of the Interior, and restoration assurances regarding water supply to the natural system. I have some remaining concerns on each of these elements of the regulations that I will raise during our question and answer period.
I am interested in hearing from each of our witnesses on these topics.
Of particular importance in the programmatic regulations will be the process created for developing “project implementation reports” - the engineering documents for each project in the Plan. These reports require the state to issue a water reservation to protect water intended for the natural system from the consumptive use permitting process. The federal government is prohibited from beginning construction on an individual project until the water reservation process is completed.
If this set of checks and balances is followed completely in the programmatic regulations, the water developed by the restoration plan will be made available for the natural system. This committee has both a duty and desire to see success.
Because of this commitment, we will ask difficult questions, demand progress and we will see this project through its completion. Undoubtedly, there will be challenges as we work through the details of project execution. But we will work together to resolve our differences. We will find our commonalities, and we will move this restoration project forward.
As we strive to achieve our goal of Everglades restoration, I believe that a comment from Theodore Roosevelt is worth keeping in mind. He said:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”