Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, testified today before the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, and declared that "Everglades restoration is working" while pressing $62.4 million in additional funding.
"All authorized projects are underway," Eikenberg said, according to prepared remarks. "Several significant projects are in the final stages and we are seeing success. The endangered Florida Panther is returning to the Picayune Strand. Scientists report that the C-111 Western Project is already exceeding expectations - restoring freshwater prey fish and habitat for the American Crocodile and Roseate Spoonbill – just one year into operations.
"These examples remind us that nature will rebound when we take steps to undo the damage."
More of his testimony below. Eikebgerg comments:
With your sustained commitment, the largest ecosystem restoration project ever undertaken is poised for success in protecting 68 endangered species, a World Heritage Site in Danger, International Biosphere Reserve and the third largest National Park in the United States.
As you consider fiscal year 2015 appropriations for the Department of the Interior, we ask that you invest in restoring America's Everglades at the level included in the President's budget request of $62.4 million.
This will be money well spent. An independent report by the Research Triangle based Mather Economics found that for every dollar spent on Everglades restoration there is a four dollar return to the economy.
Restoration provides thousands of jobs from construction workers to engineers. As work is completed jobs are increased in the fishing, hunting, boating, tourism, real estate and other industries. I am also pleased to report that with the leadership of Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature, our state-federal partnership has renewed strength. As a former Chief of Staff under Governor Charlie Crist's administration, I understand how important it is that the state and federal partnership remain strong.
Recently, Governor Scott matched National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis' $90 million spending plan, with $90 million from the state to pay for the next 2.6 miles of Tamiami Trail bridging. Director Jarvis and Governor Scott should be applauded for working together and demonstrating a willingness to remove obstacles and get the job done.
The Everglades Foundation also supports the increase in the Federal Lands Transportation program to pay for nationally significant transportation infrastructure within federal or tribal lands.
While we have made significant progress, the greater Everglades ecosystems continues to suffer from projects not yet completed. During the summer, billions of gallons of polluted water were dumped from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers causing environmental and economic destruction. Children were told to stay out of the water. The solution is within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the funding needed to complete it. Sustained funding to keep restoration projects on schedule is critical to avoiding collapse of the ecosystem, economy, and the water supply of more than 7 million Floridians and millions of tourists.
The Everglades Foundation appreciates your continued support and commitment to restoring and protecting America's Everglades.