The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force) was established in 1993 at the national level through an interagency agreement between the six principal federal departments involved in restoration and protection of the South Florida ecosystem. The Task Force was created to promote and facilitate development of consistent federal policies, strategies, priorities, and plans for addressing the environmental concerns of the South Florida ecosystem. At the Florida level, the Task Force established a Management and Coordination Working Group (Working Group), consisting of Florida-based representatives from 13 federal agencies within their departments, to formulate and recommend management policies, priorities and strategies to the Task Force.
At the time of its original formation, the Task Force was limited to only federal agencies because of restrictions imposed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that strictly limited conditions under which the Task Force could receive input and advice from non-federal agencies. However, because the importance of state and tribal government input was clearly recognized, the interagency agreement between the federal agencies recommended close, continuous coordination with appropriate state and tribal governments.
In 1995, enactment of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act provided some relief from the restrictions of FACA which allowed the Task Force and Working Group to be expanded to include members from state and tribal governments. The Task Force was expanded to include one representative each from the Florida Governor's Office, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Working Group was expanded to include one member from each of six state agencies, the Miccosukee Tribe, the Seminole Tribe, and the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida. The inside back cover provides a list of Working Group members for 1996.
This is the third annual report prepared by the Working Group. The report provides a summary of accomplishments and initiatives for calendar year 1996, as well as a summary of ecosystem restoration-related goals for 1997.
The Task Force periodically publishes a series of informational and/or management reports:
Annual Report Integrated Financial Plan Annual Cross Cut Budget Biennial Report to Congress
These documents provide different perspectives on the status of the work of the Task Force and its support groups. They are intended to meet the needs of a broad audience, including policy-makers, program managers and planners, budget staff, the general public, and all interested stakeholders. Though targeting different audiences, each document reflects the plans and accomplishments regarding the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Plan (the Ecosystem Restoration Plan) currently in preparation. Highlights of each document are as follows:
The Integrated Financial Plan (IFP) is a compendium of restoration project descriptions. Each project included in the IFP has been determined by the Working Group to be an important component of the Ecosystem Restoration Plan. The IFP contains information on funding, cost-sharing, links between projects, appropriations to date, milestones, cooperating agencies, and other project information. The IFP is released in hard copy yearly with Internet access planned for 1997. The invitational process for including projects in the IFP is designed to foster public engagement and stakeholder input to the restoration initiative. The Working Group released its first IFP on August 15,1996, and plans to revise the document for release early in 1997.
The Annual Interagency Cross-Cut Budget, released in conjunction with the President's Budget Request, "packages" under one cover the integrated financial requirements of the participating organizations of the Task Force for carrying out South Florida ecosystem restoration and protection projects. The document includes a brief line-item narrative description of planned restoration activities as well as projected costs for the next fiscal year.
A Biennial Report to Congress is required by the recently enacted Water Resources Development Act of 1996 (WRDA 96) legislation. The report will summarize "activities of the Task Force, including policies, strategies, plans, programs, projects, activities, and priorities planned, developed or implemented for the restoration of the South Florida ecosystem, and progress made toward the restoration." The Working Group anticipates completion of its first Report to Congress in 1997.
The Task Force documents described above may be obtained by contacting the office of the Executive Director, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Office of the Executive Director, c/o Florida International University, OE #148, Miami, Florida 33199; or by calling the Office of the Executive Director at (305) 348-3095; or on the Internet: http://everglades.fiu.edu/taskforce/index.html.
On October 12,1996, an important milestone was reached with the enactment of Public Law 104-303, the Water Resources Development Act of 1996. WRDA 96 addresses the structure, composition, and work of the Task Force and the way in which it conducts business. First, it specifies responsibilities, timeframes, and cost-sharing for the Army Corps of Engineers and its non-Federal sponsor regarding "restoring, preserving, and protecting" the ecosystem served by the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project. Second, it establishes in Federal law the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, specifying membership requirements, identifying major duties, enhancing public participation, and clarifying conditions under which the Task Force may receive advice from non-Federal entities.
Selected highlights of WRDA 96 are as follows:
- Task Force Membership Requirements
The Secretaries of the Interior (Chairperson), Commerce, the Army, Agriculture, Transportation; The Attorney General; The Administrator of the EPA; one representative of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida; one representative of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; two representatives of the State of Florida; one representative of the South Florida Water Management District, and two representatives of local government in the State of Florida.
- Primary Duties of the Task Force
- Consult with and provide recommendations to the Secretary of the Army regarding development of the comprehensive restoration plan;
- Coordinate the development of restoration policies, plans, programs, and projects;
- Establish a Florida-based Working Group which includes representatives of the agencies and entities represented on the Task Force as well as other governmental entities as appropriate for carrying out the priorities of the Task Force;
- Establish or select as necessary advisory bodies to assist the Task Force in its duties;
- Coordinate scientific and other research associated with restoration; and
- Prepare an integrated financial plan and recommendations for coordinated budget requests for the funds proposed to be expended by agencies and entities represented on the Task Force for the restoration effort.
WRDA 96 requires that the Task Force "implement procedures to facilitate public participation in the advisory process, including noticing meetings, providing opportunity for public input and comment, maintaining records, and making a record of meetings available for public inspection." Additionally, WRDA 96 specifies that the Task Force or its Working Group "may seek advice and input from any interested, knowledgeable, or affected party" as the Task Force or Working Group determines necessary to perform Task Force duties. WRDA 96 also specifies that "seeking advice and input" in accordance with specific guidelines shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
As identified above, specific structural changes in the Task Force are required by the WRDA 96 legislation. The Working Group believes that additional modifications, though not required by law, will enhance overall effectiveness of the Task Force and its support groups. As a result, it started in September a series of planning meetings targeted at strategic assessment and planning for the future. The approach will build on the successes achieved under the 1993 charter while emphasizing improved opportunity for public engagement and stakeholder input in the future, and streamlining the way in which participating organizations coordinate projects and conduct business.
Four critical areas encompassing mission, structure, and operations were examined:
- Charter and Mission;
- Organizational Structure;
- Connections/Communication Strategy; and
- The Ecosystem Restoration Plan.
An enhanced charter and mission statement and procedural modifications have been drafted and are currently under review by the Working Group. Major changes that may result from this restructuring effort include:
- broader representation of state agencies, the Tribes, and local governments on the Task Force and its subdivisions;
- the creation of standing subregional teams for coordination of science, resource management, infrastructure projects and programs with greater public involvement;
- the creation of ad hoc issue and task teams to support the Task Force and the Working Group, on an as-needed basis;
- an augmented role for the Office of the Executive Director in facilitating and focusing the activities of the Working Group and its teams or subdivisions.
The Working Group anticipates finalizing the Charter, Organizational Structure, and Connection Strategy and recommending them to the Task Force for approval in early 1997. The Ecosystem Restoration Plan will be developed systematically over the next two years with input from participating organizations, stakeholders, and the general public.
FORMAT OF THIS REPORT
Chapter III of this document summarizes the priority tasks established by the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and provides a key to where 1996 accomplishments on these tasks can be found in Chapter IV, "Subregion 1996 Accomplishments, Initiatives, and 1997 Goals." Chapter IV is subdivided into eleven sections, one section for each of the ten subregions comprising the South Florida ecosystem, and one section that discusses goals and accomplish ments for projects that have system-wide impacts. Each of the subregional sections in Chapter IV attempts to provide a relatively brief overview of the problems affecting that region; a summary of the objectives for restoration, protection, and preservation of that component of the ecosystem; and a summary of the accomplishments and initiatives for 1996, along with specific goals for 1997.
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