Statement of Senator James Jeffords
Environment and Public Works Committee
Implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
September 13, 2002
Good morning. The Committee will come to order.
I am pleased to be here this morning for the Environment and Public Works Committee’s oversight hearing on the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
I want to thank Senator Graham for requesting this hearing and for his long-standing dedication to this project.
I also want to recognize the leadership of Senator Smith on Everglades restoration. I understand that it was in large part his role as Chairman of this Committee in 2000 that helped move Everglades restoration through the Congress.
I had an opportunity to visit the Everglades in January of this year, anticipating some warm weather, but unfortunately experienced record lows in the city of Fort Lauderdale. I expected a balmy 75 degrees and woke to a less than balmy 39 degrees. I thought it was a little cold until I took an airboat ride – and then I knew it was cold. Despite the unseasonably cold conditions, I enjoyed my time in the Everglades and gained an appreciation for the expanse of the ecosystem we are seeking to restore.
It is similar in purpose, but larger in scale than actions we are taking in the state of Vermont to ensure the continued health of Lake Champlain. Earlier this week, I introduced the Lake Champlain Basin Program Act with my colleagues Senators Leahy, Clinton, and Schumer. It authorizes the plan, “Opportunities for Action”, developed by the EPA and the states of Vermont and New York, to continue ongoing work to preserve, protect, and restore the water quality in the Lake Champlain basin.
Like the Everglades, this Basin is a multi-use area with both rural and urban populations and a strong agriculture presence. Lake Champlain provides water supply for much of Vermont’s population and provides a home to diverse groups of aquatic plant and animal species.
I believe there may be opportunities for these two programs to learn from one another’s approaches to ecosystem restoration, and I look forward to exploring this potential.
As has been pointed out, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is the most ambitious environmental restoration project in our nation's history, both in terms of size and complexity. One distinguishing feature of the CERP are the levels of cooperation and coordination demanded, indeed required, in the development of project plans, funding, and programmatic regulations. The CERP requires input from multiple federal agencies, multiple State agencies, and from stakeholder groups both national and local. What is your assessment on the effectiveness of the coordination between these groups? What lessons have you learned so that such interaction will be effective in the future?
The Water Resources Development Act of 2000 authorized the "first installment" of projects to begin the restoration of Everglades. While our hearing today is focused on the programmatic regulations of the CERP, I think it is important to give some perspective of the larger picture of what we are doing in the Everglades and why it is so crucially important. I would like to ask what the consequences would be for delaying implementation of the CERP? What would be the consequences of not implementing the CERP?
Today’s hearing will give us an opportunity to evaluate the Everglades project’s progress since the passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 and determine what actions, if any, need to be taken.
I am particularly interested in hearing from our witnesses on several key points.
First and foremost, it is imperative that the federal investment in the Everglades is realized – that the ecosystem is restored. I am interested in hearing how the programmatic regulations issued by the Army Corps of Engineers help achieve this goal.
Second, I believe that there are some key principles in the Everglades project that, if exported, would benefit all Corps projects. Specifically, I am interested in hearing about the effectiveness of the level of coordination with the public that the Corps has used in developing the restoration Plan itself and the programmatic regulations.
I want to hear whether the many outside reviews completed by outside agencies, scientific panels, and others have impacted the course of the project. These principles are key elements of various Corps reform proposals that we are working to incorporate into the Water Resources Development Act of 2002.
I plan to introduce WRDA 2002 in the next few weeks and hope to complete Committee action later this month. Thank you again to our witnesses.
I will be unable to stay for the full hearing today, and I have asked my colleague Senator Graham to chair the hearing for me in my absence.