Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Hugh Vickery
October 14, 2004
Interior Secretary Gale Norton Commends
State of Florida's "Acceler8" Initiative to Restore the Everglades

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today commended the State of Florida for its "Acceler8" initiative to implement key components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) ahead of schedule.

Building upon the assurances agreement signed by President Bush and Governor Bush in 2002 and the CERP programmatic regulations issued in 2003, the state's "Acceler8" effort identifies an upfront funding mechanism to implement eight CERP components within the next five years, thereby restoring Everglades habitat and providing significant benefits for fish and wildlife. Overall, "Acceler8" will increase water supplies for the environment, urban and agricultural users by approximately 418,000 acre-feet annually.

"The state effort to secure the necessary funding up front is a win-win for all stakeholders and it will ensure that the Everglades is protected and restored," Norton said. "'Acceler8' allows us to turn our attention to the design, environmental analysis, and on-the-ground completion of projects that will have many benefits for Interior-managed resources in South Florida. We look forward to the full participation by all stakeholders as we move forward."

Interior will work closely with the Corps and state agencies to assure that its staffing resources are properly aligned to meet the ambitious schedules set forth in the "Acceler8" initiative. The CERP programmatic regulations, and other federal regulatory requirements, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, will be fully met through efficient and timely integration with the "Acceler8" project development efforts.

Furthermore, as Chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, the Department will ensure that the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force continues its vital role of involving the public and stakeholders in this process.

"I appreciate the tremendous efforts of the Department of the Interior to work with us and the State of Florida to ensure that 'Acceler8' will be successfully completed under the WRDA 2000 framework," said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works J.P. Woodley. "I look forward to working with our partners at Interior and the State of Florida to efficiently and effectively carry out our respective duties to restore the Everglades."

Lands for several of the projects included in the "Acceler8" initiative were acquired with funds provided by the Department of the Interior and provide important environmental benefits.
Among these projects are the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) water storage reservoir and the C-43 storage reservoir (formerly Berry Groves), which promise additional and more natural timing of water releases for the environment and attenuation of back-pumping to Lake Okeechobee.

"We are pleased these projects were included in the state's 'Acceler8' initiative," said Jay Slack, field supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida Ecological Service's office. "We believe that this program, along with our continuing efforts to remove invasive species on refuge lands and recover key threatened and endangered species in South Florida, offers us the best opportunity to take significant steps toward restored Everglades habitat and recovery of key species."

Additionally, the Department is taking steps to ensure timely completion of the Modified Water Deliveries Project. Land acquisition for the 8.5 Square Mile Area will be completed by the end of next year and efforts are underway to complete the construction features for the 8.5 Square Mile Area and the seepage and conveyance features.

The Department is working closely with the Army Corps and the State of Florida to ensure that the completion of improvements to Tamiami Trail is done in a manner that promotes the restoration of more natural flows to Everglades National Park consistent in the most efficient manner possible so that Modified Water Deliveries will be complete and serve as a strong foundation for future benefits under CERP.

"We hope that our efforts to develop a solution for Tamiami Trail will be both cost effective, as well as secure maximum environmental benefits for Everglades National Park," said Dan Kimball, acting superintendent of Everglades National Park. "With the State's "Acceler8" initiative and our efforts to move forward on Modified Water Deliveries, we are continuing our strong partnership to restore the Everglades."




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