Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan:

Additional Water Quality Projects May Be Needed and Could Increase Costs

RCED-00-235: Published: Sep 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army Corps of Engineers' Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

GAO noted that: (1) the Plan provides a conceptual framework for improving the quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water in the South Florida ecosystem; (2) 24 of the Plan's 66 projects are intended, among other things, to improve the quality of water in the natural areas of the ecosystem--the remaining projects deal more with the water's quantity, timing, and distribution; (3) the water quality projects in the Plan are intended to supplement the efforts of the state, which has the primary responsibility for achieving water quality standards in Florida; (4) under the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, the Corps is allowed to include water quality projects in the Plan and equally share the costs with Florida if the projects are essential to restoring the Everglades; (5) there are too many uncertainties to estimate the number and costs of the Corps projects that will ultimately be needed to address water quality in the ecosystem; (6) as uncertainties related to implementing the Plan's projects are resolved and more information is gathered about the extent of the ecosystem's water quality problems, it is likely that modifications and additions to the Plan will be necessary and that these changes could increase the total cost of the Plan over the Corps' current estimate of $7.8 billion; (7) for example, the state is determining the level of pollutants that Lake Okeechobee can receive and what actions are needed to clean up the lake; (8) some of the actions being considered, such as dredging the lake to remove contaminated sediment, could cost over $1 billion; (9) because the lake is the source of much of the water in the ecosystem, the Corps could become involved in the effort if it determines that the lake's cleanup is essential to the ecosystem's restoration; (10) other efforts, such as the completion of feasibility studies for areas in the ecosystem not covered by the Plan, could also lead to additional water quality projects; (11) the Corps has acknowledged the level of uncertainty in the Plan and has included a process for incorporating project modifications and additions in its future reports to Congress; (12) it has not, however, included a means for reporting: (a) cumulative changes in projects and costs for the Plan as a whole; and (b) the progress being made in implementing the Plan; and (13) such information will be important for Congress in authorizing future projects.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan 2005 Report, transmitted to Congress on September 22, 2006, is the first in a series of periodic reports fulfilling requirements of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The report summarizes the progress made in the first five years of CERP implementation and the accomplishments expected over the next five years. The report also includes expenditures for the first five years along with forecasts for funding requirements for the next five years.

    Recommendation: To promote well-informed decisions about the Plan's projects that are presented for approval in future authorization acts, the Secretary of the Army should provide Congress with updates that: (1) reflect the cumulative project and cost changes to the overall Plan; and (2) indicate the progress being made toward implementing the Plan. The updates should be made at the same time as subsequent authorization proposals. The Corps should also provide these updates to the state of Florida.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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