April 2016 – Former Everglades National Park superintendent Dan Kimball (left, above) was back in the park on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day and the next big step in Everglades restoration – construction of a 2.5 mile bridge along Tamiami Trail that will allow more fresh water to flow into Everglades National Park. The former superintendent joined Shannon Estenoz from the Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives, Everglades Superintendent Pedro Ramos and FWC Commissioner “Alligator” Ron Bergeron on Earth Day at Long Pine Key to mark the occasion.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered the keynote address earlier in the day. Here’s the DOI news release on the secretary’s visit:
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today, as part of Earth Day celebrations, announced the next phase of bridging to the Tamiami Trail, an ongoing project which provides ecological restoration benefits to Everglades National Park and the central Everglades in Florida. The new trail will raise a two-and-a-half mile section of U.S. Highway 41 in the South Florida region and is the latest milestone in the Obama Administration’s efforts to conserve the Everglades’ historic and iconic wildlife habitat and water flows.
The event comes on the heels of Secretary Jewell’s conservation speech at National Geographic earlier this week, where she outlined a major course correction in how we approach conservation to ensure a bright future for our public lands and waters.
“This new bridge is part of the largest conservation effort ever undertaken by the National Park Service and will return water flows to more historic levels, favorably impacting key plant and animal species like the American crocodile and many native birds,” said Secretary Jewell, who also visited Everglades National Park last Earth Day with President Obama to highlight steps the Administration has taken to act on climate change. “It’s a vital piece of this Administration’s efforts with our Florida partners to deliver increased flows of clean, fresh water to an area that desperately needs them to make the ecosystem sustainable, including critical marsh lands, Florida Bay and aquifers important to south Florida’s water supply. The Everglades is an internationally recognized ecological treasure that we must restore and protect for future generations.”
“The Tamiami Trail is a major effort to restore the River of Grass. We cannot rest in our commitment to work with our partners to bring this critical ecosystem back to health,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. “In 2013, I was honored to attend the ribbon cutting commemorating the first mile of the Tamiami Trail Bridge, constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. When complete, this bridge will greatly improve the ecological conditions in Everglades National Park and will help to restore the quantity, timing and distribution of water deliveries to the Park. Today represents the Obama Administration’s continued commitment and unprecedented progress toward restoring the Everglades. We have a responsibility to the people of Florida and this country to protect this international treasure.”
Secretary Jewell was joined by U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Carlos Curbelo and Patrick Murphy, Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Gus Pego, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell and other federal, state and conservation partners to celebrate this next phase of one of the largest conservation projects ever undertaken by the NPS.
Through a collaborative effort between the NPS and the US Army Corps of Engineers, infrastructure improvements began in 2009 to restore flow through the Everglades by raising sections of the Tamiami Trail roadway that cuts through the Everglades to construct a one-mile bridge. The original road was built in the 1920s, while work to restore natural water flows has been ongoing since 1989, with comprehensive restoration plans authorized in 2000 under the Water Resources Development Act. The first mile was completed in 2013. The next portion is made possible by a collaborative funding partnership with NPS, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Lands Highway Program and Florida’s Department of Transportation.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in partnership with the National Park Service will lead the estimated $144 million construction project. The cost of the project will be shared equally between the state and National Park Service partners. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Additional bridging and raising of the Tamiami Trail – combined with improved conveyance of water into Everglades National Park – will contribute to further restoring water flows and ultimately the sustainability of the Everglades ecosystem. Each phase of the project has the potential to double the volume of water flowing into Northeast Shark River Slough.
At today’s ceremony, officials unveiled a new sign that explains the new phase of bridging and will be displayed along the Tamiami Trail during construction of the bridge. The ceremony concluded with students from Miami Arts Studio K-12 at Zelda Glazer singing a song written specifically for this year’s Centennial of the National Park Service.
For a comprehensive look at the Everglades Restoration project, the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration effort, visit this website. A summary of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is also available.