Florida formally signed off on an $880-million slate of Everglades cleanup projects on Tuesday.
Gov. Rick Scott announced the state had signed water quality permits and a consent order negotiated with the federal government to expand efforts to stem the flow of polluted farm, ranch and yard runoff into the Everglades.
Scott, in a news release, called the plan he had championed during nine months of negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “a historic step for Everglades restoration.’’
The plan commits the state to $880 million in new projects that will expand on an existing network of manmade marshes designed to reduce the flow of the damaging nutrient phosphorus into the Everglades. The state, under pressure from federal judges to speed up the pace of cleanup, has already spent some $1.8 billion to construct 45,000 acres of treatment marshes. The new plan calls for adding another 6,500 acres of marshes, along with large shallow water storage basins and other improvements.
Though most environmental groups have applauded the plan, the Miccosukee Tribe and Friends of the Everglades have been critical, arguing it will push back cleanup deadlines to 2025 — almost two decades beyond an original 2006 target — and questioning whether the state has a firm plan to pay for the work.
Scott, in the release, said the deal would be paid for with a combination of revenues from the state and South Florida Water Management District “without raising or creating new costs for Floridians.’’