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Everglades restoration funding could help Florida's imperiled manatees

A Florida manatee cow and calf.
Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A Florida manatee cow and calf.

The Federal Government is pumping more than $1 billion into Everglades restoration. Environmental advocates say it’s a big deal for the river of grass — and it could also help Florida’s struggling manatees. 

WMFE’s environmental reporter Amy Green joined us to talk about the link between the Everglades and the manatees. 

Green said there continues to be concern about the manatee population.

“Wildlife agencies have said this week that they expect a new effort to provide supplemental lettuce for starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon will be a long term one. And they say that’s because the water quality problems and seagrass losses that have led to this unprecedented die off in Florida, of manatees, especially in the Indian River Lagoon, will not be resolved anytime soon.”

Green said the $1.1 billion in federal funding will go towards projects to restore the natural flow of the Everglades, improve water quality and fortify the watershed against sea level rise.

“And the reason we’re talking about this in the context of manatees is because one of the projects included in the funding is one that is aimed at improving water quality in the Indian River Lagoon,” she added.

“This has been a big issue in Florida as we’ve seen large discharges of water flow from Lake Okeechobee, which is considered the watery heart of the Everglades. And those discharges flow to coastal estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon where they can cause a lot of problems, again, nutrient pollution that nourishes these harmful algae blooms.”

Algal blooms contribute to seagrass die-off which can lead the manatees to starve.

The Biden administration says the $1.1 billion infusion is the largest single investment in Everglades restoration in history. Environmental advocates say there’s still a long way to go.

“Everglades advocates point out that the total cost of Everglades restoration is $23 billion. And so while while it’s a big boost, there’s still a lot more work to do,” Green said.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Matthew Peddie
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