Attending the groundbreaking
of the first component in the three-decade Comprehensive Everglades
Restoration Plan, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steve Griles applauded
Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the state of Florida for accelerating
the Southern Golden Gates Estates Hydrological Project.
The Interior Department is a partner in the project, contributing $38
million to land acquisition.
"By moving forward quickly with this project, Florida has again
demonstrated its strong commitment to lasting, on-the-ground restoration
of the Everglades," Griles said at the event in Collier County
in Southwest Florida. "The project is an excellent example of the
kind of federal-state collaboration and partnership needed to restore
the South Florida ecosystem."
In three construction phases, the restoration project will backfill
most of a 7-mile drainage canal and remove 26 miles of adjacent roadways
associated with the former Southern Golden Gates Estates subdivision.
It will re-establish surface water sheet flow to restore wetlands within
the project's boundaries and in the adjacent Fakahatchee Strand State
Preserve, which supports the largest stand of native royal palms and
the largest concentration of orchids in North America.
The project will also contribute to the restoration of habitat that
supports endangered Florida panthers and wood stork as well as the threatened
red-cockaded woodpecker, bald eagle and eastern indigo snake. The removal
of drainage features will also benefit the endangered West Indian manatee
and American crocodile.
In addition, the project will benefit downstream estuaries that include
Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife
"While we have made much progress in restoring the Everglades,
this initial project in the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades
Restoration Plan marks the path we will take for the next three decades,"
Griles said. "It clearly demonstrates the power of using partnerships
to take advantage of the strengths that each of the partners brings