FORT MYERS — Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that the state will spend $90 million to further hydrate the Everglades and help lessen water woes plaguing southwest Florida.
During a stop in Fort Myers, Scott discussed a plan to construct a 2.6-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. A similar 1-mile bridge opened in March on that stretch.
Scott said that by building an additional bridge, more water will flow naturally through the Everglades. This will keep nutrient rich water out of the estuaries. He was joined during the announcement by local lawmakers.
"Adding additional bridge space to the Tamiami Trail will do a lot to keep nutrient rich water out of our communities," said Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, in a news release. "Every drop of water we send south is another drop that doesn't make its way to our shores, which benefits our people and economy."
The bridges replace the existing roadway, which has blocked the flow of water to the southern Everglades from Lake Okeechobee since its construction in 1928.
When the project is completed, an annual average of 210,000 acre-feet of water will be redirected.
According to Scott, the total cost of the bridging is about $180 million. The state of Florida will match federal funds for this project, up to $30 million a year over three years, or $90 million total. This money will come from the Florida Department of Transportation budget.
At least one environmental group cheered Scott's announcement.
Theresa Pierno, acting president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Parks Conservation Association, said the new bridge will "restore water flows and distribution that marine wildlife, fisheries and nesting colonies of birds rely on, including the endangered Everglades snail kite and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow."
She added that historically, the Tamiami Trail has obstructed freshwater flow into the Everglades since its construction in 1928.