Federal officials announced on Monday they’re delaying approval of a key piece of Everglades’ restoration.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced it needed more time to approve the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). The plan is a $2 billion state and federal partnership that would restore the historic flow of water south in the River of Grass.
Environmental advocates have long championed the project because it would eventually end harmful water flows into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.
State officials signed off on the CEPP just a few weeks ago, but now Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said federal bureaucratic feet-dragging is slowing down restoration efforts.
“We had tremendous momentum,” he said. “There were a number of dominos that had to fall prior to getting full-fledged congressional authorization. We hit the brick wall of the Army Corps of Engineers. Quite frankly, they are supposed to be a partner when it comes to Everglades’ restoration and [they] showed that they are also a hindrance.”
In a conference call with reporters, Army Corps Planning Chief Eric Bush said the agency had three weeks to review 8,000 pages, which he said wasn’t enough time. Bush said there’s also a minor dispute over negotiated language, but the corps plans on having something finalized by late summer.
“We haven’t failed, he said. “We are very close to having a final report. We need to take these next few weeks to get the details right and then we can do that.”
Advocates are also concerned this could mean the CEPP won’t be part of a current congressional water bill, which typically passes once every seven years.