Climate change and other hurdles mean it will take more water — and potentially more taxpayer money — to save the Everglades, according to new scientific findings released Thursday...
The report to Congress warns that rising seas and warming temperatures are threatening to worsen damage already done by decades of drainage and pollution, caused by development and farming overtaking the Everglades.
Taxpayers since 2000 have spent about $3.2 billion on what's expected to grow to a $16 billion investment in cleaning up water pollution and restoring more water flows to Florida's famed River of Grass. The goal is both to preserve what remains of the Everglades and to boost South Florida's drinking-water supply.
But delivering on those goals is expected to get harder as sea-level rise pushes more saltwater into the Everglades and rising temperatures accelerate evaporation of water supplies during prolonged droughts.
To compensate, more water-storage alternatives should be added to Everglades restoration plans, according to a team of independent scientists that reports to Congress every two years about Everglades restoration progress.
It also could mean trying to hold more water in Lake Okeechobee, instead of draining as much out to sea for flood control.
Sea-level rise and other effects of climate change "will need to be part of the planning and (have) not been taken into account," said David B. Ashley, University of Southern California engineering professor who led the Everglades restoration review committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.