MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland today joined officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District to break ground today on a 1-mile bridge on the Tamiami Trail, a key component of on-going efforts to revive the Everglades.
The $81 million project, which has been 20 years in the making, is the largest construction project in the history of the National Park Service and a key component of the Modified Waters Delivery Project to restore fresh water flows to Everglades National Park and the South Florida Ecosystem.
“Today we have reached an historic milestone in the restoration of the Everglades and in our agenda to help protect America's great outdoors for future generations,” Salazar said. “The Everglades are one of America's most treasured places, but for more than 90 years, the Tamiami Trail has effectively served as a dike, interrupting natural water flows that are vital to the natural ecosystem. Today, thanks to the hard work of many stakeholders in South Florida, we are building a bridge that will help to restore those water flows while still allowing the Trail to serve its important transportation function for the people of this state.”
“Partnership has been and always will be the key to successful Everglades restoration,” said Tom Strickland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “While it took years of hard work to reach this day, the Tamiami Bridge proves what we can do when we continue to work together. We can piece by piece, project by project, lay the foundation for a renewed and healthy Everglades.”
Salazar noted that the Obama administration has made Everglades restoration a high priority in its efforts to protect America's great outdoors. The President's economic recovery plan included $117 million for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior to restore habitat and to provide additional fresh water for the South Florida ecosystem.
The Tamiami Trail was constructed in the 1920s with the intention of linking Tampa and Miami, hence its name. The bridge project, which is expected to be completed in May 2013, is located in Miami-Dade County, adjacent to the northern boundary of Everglades National Park.
The process to reach agreement on the bridge was at times complex and time-consuming, involving many stakeholders and subject to rigorous environmental review. In November, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded an $81 million contract that includes constructing the bridge, and raising and reinforcing an additional 9.7 miles of the trail.
As a major component of the Modified Water Deliveries Project – also known as Mod Waters – the bridge will specifically restore more natural water flow to Northeast Shark River Slough, a portion of Everglades National Park which Congress added in 1989.
Once completed, Mod Waters will provide a foundation for other restoration projects that will be implemented in the future to increase the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of fresh water to the Everglades.