Federal Spending Plan Includes A South Florida Gift: $200 Million For Everglades Restoration

Dec 23, 2019

A $1.4 trillion spending package signed by President Donald Trump includes a holiday gift for the Everglades: $200 million.

The amount marks only the second time in 20 years that the federal government has pitched in the amount it promised to spend on restoration work, said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, who called the effort by Florida’s congressional delegation "herculean."

When Congress originally approved the massive fix to the ailing Everglades in 2000, it expected the work to take 30 to 40 years and cost $7.8 billion to complete. But over the years, erratic funding from Congress and the state of Florida, which share the cost of the project, has slowed progress.

In its most recent assessment in 2018, the National Academies of Sciences warned the lack of funding threatened to double the amount of time needed to finish the job to 65 years. The assessment also concluded the price tag would likely double to $16 billion.

According to that breakdown, by 2014, federal funding had dropped to $44 million. Between 2015 and 2018, it inched up, averaging about $77 million for the 2000 plan, with another $121 million spent on other Everglades work, including fixing the aging dike around Lake Okeechobee.

The state, under court orders to clean up water, also upped its spending on efforts to clean water polluted with phosphorus from farm run-off and stormwater. For the same time, state spending averaged $153 million for the 2000 plan and $581 million for other efforts that included massive filtering marshes. 

At that rate, the Academies warned work would continue to lag. But if the annual amount were increased to $312 million, it could cut the timeline to just over 30 years, or 2048, the assessment said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed spending $322 million on Everglades work in next year's budget.