WEST PALM BEACH — An $880 million plan to improve Everglades water quality was given federal approval Wednesday, setting the clock on a huge 12-year cleanup project.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved permits for the proposal, saying its completion "would represent a significant and historic milestone in restoring America's Everglades."
The Everglades Everglades have been damaged for decades by farms and development. Dikes, dams and canals have drained much of the swamp and polluted it with fertilizers and urban runoff.
The state and federal governments' restoration efforts have been stymied for years by funding shortfalls, legal challenges and political bickering.
The federal approval came a week after the latest plan was submitted by the South Florida Water Management District, the lead state agency on Everglades restoration efforts.
It pulls together pieces of plans proposed last year by the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection and sets the stage to resolve lawsuits dating back to 1988 over enforcing Clean Water Act standards in the wetlands.
State funding and the actual construction remain significant hurdles.