Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan:

Additional Water Quality Projects May Be Needed and Could Increase Costs

T-RCED-00-297: Published: Sep 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2000.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Army Corps of Engineers' Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, focusing on: (1) the role of the Corps' Plan in addressing the major water quality concerns in Florida's ecosystem; and (2) modifications that may be needed as the Corps implements the Plan after it has been authorized by Congress.

GAO noted that: (1) the Corps' Comprehensive Everglades Restoration 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) modifications and additions to the Plan will likely be necessary 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; (6) these changes could increase the total cost of the Plan over the Corps' current estimate of $7.8 billion; (7) 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; (8) the Corps has acknowledged the uncertainty in the Plan and has included a process for incorporating project modifications and additions in its future reports to Congress; (9) 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 (10) such information will be important for Congress in authorizing future projects.

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