Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the state had completed a project ahead of schedule to remove a portion of the Old Tamiami Trail roadbed to help increase the amount of water flowing into the Everglades and Everglades National Park.
In December 2019, DeSantis confirmed the contract to allow the project to move forward. The state set a January 2022 target completion date.
“Removing barriers to move water south benefits the Everglades and restoration of its critical ecosystem and helps to protect the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from harmful discharges,” DeSantis explained.
The Governor has prioritized projects related to Everglades restoration since taking office in 2019. The Tamiami Trail project was part of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), which includes the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project.
“I’m proud of the progress we’re seeing on these projects; we’re going to continue to pursue them, and we’re going to continue to go all the way through the finish line,” DeSantis added.
“Since day one, my administration has been focused on expediting key Everglades restoration and water quality projects to protect Florida’s natural resources for future generations, and I’m proud of our record-setting progress.”
Erik Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, praised DeSantis for prioritizing work on Everglades’ environmental issues.
“Under this Governor, he made it very clear that we need to remove the barriers, the hurdles that were in place to allow the flow of water to the south, to allow water to hit Everglades National Park and ultimately down to Florida Bay,” Eikenberg said.
“Our administration has been focused on restoring the Everglades for generations of Floridians to enjoy,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez added.
“As a South Floridian, I am proud that we have all come together to recognize how important this is, and I look forward to working with the Water Management District, DEP, FWC and all of our partners to continue completing these projects at a record pace.
Tuesday’s announcement comes amid a larger conversation regarding the state’s water flow. Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it had landed on a plan to regulate Lake Okeechobee’s water levels.
That plan also includes changes to where the Corps will send water discharged from Lake O. The proposal will see reductions in discharges to the Lake Worth Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary and increases in discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
The Corps is still finalizing that plan, but many advocates have pushed to “send water south” to prevent discharges — which often contain toxic algae from Lake O — from reaching Florida’s coastal communities.
“The protection of Florida’s vital water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state,” said Shawn Hamilton, Interim Secretary at the Department of Environmental Protection. Hamilton called the completion of the Tamiami Trail roadbed project “a big part of reducing the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”
The roadbed removal will help more freshwater flow south into the Everglades. “Alligator” Ron Bergeron, a member of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, praised the project’s early completion.
“I would like to thank the Governor and our legislators for their leadership in Everglades restoration,” Bergeron said. “Governor, you asked us to expedite Everglades projects. I’m proud to stand here today and tell you we’ve delivered again.”