South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group

Annual Report 1996



[1996 Accomplishments] [1996 Initiatives] [1997 Goals]

a. Ecosystem Problems and Restoration Objectives

Beginning with channelization of the Caloosahatchee River and its connection to Lake Okeechobee, and culminating with the Central and Southern Florida Project (C&SF) authorized by Congress in 1948, the hydrologic system was forever altered. Drainage fostered development, which, in turn, required more drainage to protect against flooding. Flood control made possible massive land-use changes that decreased the availability of land for water storage and recharge and altered both the direction and rate of runoff. Changes in the hydrologic regime directly and indirectly caused other physical and biological changes. Today, the hydrology of South Florida is vastly changed from what it was prior to the 1800s.

The first annual report of the Interagency Working Group (1994) highlighted ecosystem problems that now exist and generically described an overall approach to restoration. Major ecosystem problems identified in that annual report include:

The ideal conceptual restoration target for South Florida is re-establishment of pre-drainage topography, hydrology, and vegetative cover. "In reality, the irreversible loss of significant wetland areas, as well as the almost complete urbanization of the east coast ridge and the need to accommodate agriculture make the restoration target only approachable." (1994 Annual Report, Interagency Working Group).


b. 1996 Accomplishments

Water Conservation

Put into operation six Mobile Irrigation Labs (MlLs) in South Florida; three operating in primarily the urban areas and three in the agricultural areas within the ecosystem. The MIL Program seeks to positively alter irrigation system management by making recommendations to improve the system's performance and encourage better water management. The was significant water savings from the urban MIL and documented water savings of 17,277 acre-feet from the agricultural MIL in 1996.

Land Acquisition

Land acquisition is a critical component in almost all of our ecosystem restoration projects. For example, land ownership is necessary for construction and implementation of stormwater treatment areas in the Everglades Agricultural Area; water storage in the Water Preserve Areas along the east coast; hydropattern restoration under the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, the Everglades Program, the Modified Water Deliveries Project, and the C-111 Project; and for preserving critical wildlife habitat throughout the ecosystem. During 1996, state and federal agencies acquired over 56,198 acres for ecosystem restoration and protection, at a cost of approximately $108 million. Some of these acquisitions are described in the subregion sections.

Completed acquisition of 86,651 acres in Big Cypress National Preserve through the Collier exchange of lands in Phoenix, Arizona.

Involving the Public

Completed an Inventory of Federal Information and Education Activities and began implementation of the Strategic Communications Plan.

Implemented Working Group proto cols for holding public meetings, media noticing procedure, and media list.

Worked with Florida Public Television on a documentary shown statewide on "Florida Crossroads" entitled, "Before It's Too Late."

Established a Working Group home page on the world wide web, and initiated a digital library, found on:

Comprehensive Conservation Permitting and Mitigation Strategy

Defined a set of indicators and analysis flow diagrams to infer the presence of various ecosystem functions at the landscape scale using Geographic Informa tion System (GIS) data. In doing this, have defined a set of landscape functions and also conducted a review of various ecosys tem models under development.

Prepared drafts of two site-scale functional assessment tools based on the HydroGeomorphic Methodology (HGM). One is for the Everglades Flats, and the other is for the Flats-Depressional communi ties.

Completed draft analysis processes to identify components important to the ecosystem and areas of intense develop ment, and prioritize conservation and restoration opportunities.

Drafted a Permitting and Mitigation Strategy that begins with vision and mission statements that guide the development of the specific tasks, objectives, and action items. It identifies mechanisms for incorpo rating existing data and future data needs to better coordinate decision making at all agency levels.

Inventoried and prioritized information available in GIS format that will assist in current decision processes.

Finalized a comprehensive interagency agreement to streamline agricultural permitting. This effort will address agricultural permitting from a "whole farm" perspec tive, greatly increasing the efficiency and effects of permitting actions addressing pollution, runoff, and water use.

Integrated Financial Plan

Completed preparation of the first IFP. This document identifies long-term funding needs for all ongoing or needed South Florida ecosystem restoration projects. It supplements the Cross-Cut Budget by providing an overall framework for ecosystem restoration.

Developed a procedure for updating and maintaining the IFP.

Central and Southern Florida Comprehensive Review Study

Added interagency members to the Restudy Team. This will help ensure better coordination and integration of all interests throughout the study process.

Completed a preliminary calibration of the Everglades Landscape Model (ELM). The ELM will be used for evaluating the effects of water management actions, including C&SF Project Restudy options, on landscape vegetation communities in response to adjusted hydropatterns and nutrient inputs.

Completed a land suitability analysis for the Water Preserve Areas (WPAs). This effort included a representative from each of the affected counties. The analysis resulted in expanding the East Coast Buffer boundary.

Completed A Conceptual Plan for the C&SF Project Restudy. The Conceptual Plan was completed with unanimous consensus of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida. It was unanimously endorsed by the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and adopted by the Governor on November 13, 1996. The Governor will transmit his recommendations to the Task Force and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Conceptual Plan includes 13 thematic concepts and 7 specific recommendations which are intended to broaden, strengthen, and accelerate the Restudy.

Ecologic Programs

Completed a report by an Expert Panel titled Ecological Assessment of the 1994-95 Highwater Levels in the Everglades (November 1996). The report was based on interagency assessments that were evaluated by a reknowned group of independent scientists. This report assesses impacts and recommends additional studies.

Completed the Integrated Science Plan. This document provides an overall interagency strategy for providing efficient and comprehensive programs of research and monitoring.

Completed annual assessments of the status of south Florida fishery stocks, including shrimp, red drum, king, and Spanish mackerel, and reef fish.

Completed the final report of Scientific Information Needs for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration which outlines for the total ecosystem and each of ten subregions, the science data required to accomplish ecological restoration through adaptive management.

Developed final criteria for the Natural Systems Boundary (NSB) Model and worked toward populating the database for a pilot project. The NSB Model will use a GIS database to spatially define the natural systems important to the South Florida ecosystem with consideration of ecosystem function, connectivity, restoration, and hydrologic importance. The final product will be used to evaluate various restoration scenarios or alternatives to determine what is gained or lost relative to the natural system.

Water Management

Completed a report titled Aquifer Storage and Recovery: Potential Water Storage Alternatives for South Florida (May 23, 1996) which provides recommendations regarding testing, water quality permitting, procedures and implementation of ASRs.

Farm Bill Implementation

Identified and prioritized projects for application of the $600 million of Farm Bill funding (including non-Federal matching funds). Extensive involvement of the public and other interest groups and organizations was utilized and as a result, the final project ranking enjoyed broad support.

Completed Framework Agreement for expenditure of Farm Bill funds. This document forms the legal basis for the transfer of funds from the Department of Interior to the State.

c. 1996 Initiatives

Involving the Public

Initiated the "Watchable Wildlife" program, which promotes the enjoyment of passive nature watching and identifies public areas where wildlife is particularly abundant and observable.

Initiated the "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" program, which is designed to enhance women's knowledge in a multitude of outdoor recreational skills and promote an enhanced appreciation of Florida's natural areas, fish, and wildlife.

Central and Southern Florida
Comprehensive Review Study

Initiated a process to integrate the Everglades Landscape Model (ELM) and the Across Trophic Level System Simulation (ATLSS) model. The goal of the ATLSS is to predict the response of upper trophic levels, such as fish and birds, to changes in water and nutrient management. The ELM will provide the foundation of water, nutrient, and vegetation changes needed by the ATLSS model.

Initiated plan formulation and accomplished a pre-screening analysis of various plan components.

Accelerated completion of the C&SF Project Restudy. The WRDA 96 required that the Comprehensive Plan, along with a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, be submitted to Congress by July 1999. This is about 1 year earlier than originally scheduled.

Social Science

Created a Social Science Steering Committee to assist with tasks involved in holding a symposium entitled "Developing a Social Science Research Agenda for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration". This committee has the goal of developing an action-oriented social science agenda for use by the Working Group in their efforts to restore the greater Everglades Ecosystem. The symposium is tentatively scheduled for late winter 1997.

d. 1997 Goals

WRDA 1996 Implementation

Finalize prioritization of nominated critical projects and begin implementation.

Finalize Task Force and Working Group membership, charter, mission, and organization structure.

Involving the Public

Produce public affairs products, including: Public Affairs Plan, Working Group Talk Show Strategy, Logo/Visual Identity Usage Guidelines, Education Strategy, and a brochure entitled, "South Florida Ecosystem Restoration, An Investment In Our Future".

Publish a Task Force home page on the World Wide Web at the neutral domain established by the Working Group: Enlarge the base of information available in the digital library, found at: Provide appropriate links to other home pages, such as the Everglades Partnership, found at:; and the Army Corps of Engineers Restudy, found at:

Increase efforts to develop, advocate and help implement sustainable urban growth patterns and practices and sustainable agricultural practices throughout the South Florida ecosystem

Initiate a study to assess the dynamic nature of the organic soils of the EAA. Specially, these observations will be made in terms of organic accretion which could provide potential benefits to atmospheric carbon sequestration. This study will determine what effect farmers who engage in installation of conservation practices and BMPs will have on securing sustainable agriculture by protecting their soil resource while also maintaining a long-term carbon sink for global climate change.

Develop a strategy for involving the public through existing organizations such as the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida.

Ecologic Programs

Expand the analysis in the publication "Closing the Gaps in Florida's Wildlife Habitat Conservation System" to include species not originally analyzed. This effort will provide a more complete analysis of lands that are critical to the survival of fish and wildlife species, as well as unique communities.

Eradication of Invasive Exotics

Complete quarantine testing of the sawfly and apply to USDA to field test the insect to determine its effectiveness at controlling the spread of Brazilian pepper. The Brazilian pepper is one of the most aggressive exotic pest plants and currently infests over 1,000,000 acres. It has invaded many environmentally sensitive areas in the Everglades.

Approve oxyops, the first insect species for release. This will be the first insect species field tested for its effectiveness at controlling the spread of melaleuca. The melaleuca tree is an extremely aggressive exotic plant that is destroying native long and short hydroperiod wetlands. Because of the expense and need for repeat treatment over such large areas, chemical and mechanical control methods are not practical or feasible.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit presents a commendation to Buck J. Lockery at a Task Force meeting for his contributions towards ecosystem restoration. Secretary Babbit attended the meeting for a presentation ofthe Governor's Commision Conceptual Plan by Richard Pettigrew (far left).
* Correction: Award recipient is Buck J Thackery (right)

Comprehensive Conservation Permitting
and Mitigation Strategy

Develop plans for the implementation of conservation opportunities through permitting/regulatory actions alone or in cooperation with other efforts.

Develop and distribute materials to the public explaining wetland planning and permitting from an interagency perspective, including wetland Best Management Practices (BMPs), based on current agency interaction. This can be updated and made available on a Web site in addition to hardcopies available through all relevant South Florida agencies.

Identify the most functional means to provide GIS data to the public, with emphasis on county library and state university/ community college systems.

Utilize the consolidated GIS data to develop a map and recommend areas under intense development pressure for restoration, enhancement, and conservation.

Central and Southern Florida
Comprehensive Review Study

Finalize success criteria based on restoration goals. These criteria will be used 6 to evaluate alternative plans.

Develop procedures to evaluate alternative restoration strategies.

Ecologic Programs

Evaluate the implementation status of the recommendations of the October 1995 Initial Report of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida and foster the further progress of those recommendations which are not being implemented. Recommendations address the management of water to achieve a sustainable South Florida; pollution prevention; combating the spread of exotic species; transforming urban sprawl into quality development patterns; employment and greater business opportunities; and an improved quality of life.

Produce a Natural Systems Bound ary map for Subregion 8 to serve as a template for developing a science plan for South Florida.

Water Management

Complete a report on seepage control technologies which are applicable to South Florida. The Water Budget Report identified control of seepage loss as vital to both water supply and ecosystem restoration needs.

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