Tamiami Trail Modifications: Role in Everglades Restoration Plan

One of the first policy alternatives that were reviewed for the paper was the Army Corps of Engineers’ Modified Water Deliveries (MWD) Project. The Modified Water Deliveries Project is a multi-faceted answer to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) which addresses the core task of restoring the natural hydrologic conditions in Everglades National Park. In particular, the Corps is seeking to mitigate and, over time, alter the impacts of man-made structures such as roads, levees and canals on the water flows and levels in the Central and South regions of Florida. Under the MWD Project, the Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the United States Department of the Interior and the South Florida Water Management District, will address (4) four major water management issues that have been collectively agreed upon to be the most important components in moving forward with a total restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. The (4) four main components of the MWD Project are:

  1. an 8.5 square mile flood mitigation,
  2. Conveyance and seepage control features,
  3. Combine Structural and Operational Plan (CSOP),
  4. Tamiami Trail Modifications.

For the purposes of this work, our group will focus primarily on the Tamiami Trail Modifications portion of the MWD and the most recent proposal under this component known as Alternative 3.2.2.a. Alternative 3.2.2a recommends that (1) one mile of roadway be replaced with a bridge to allow unrestricted water flow. It also calls for increased operating levels in the Tamiami Trail Borrow Canal, a (30) thirty percent surface road increase on Tamiami Trail to prevent flooding and an adjustment to current water management operations to allow for a more equally distributed water flow on the east and west sides of Tamiami Trail. Cost estimates for implementing Alternative 3.2.2a run approximately $85 million with the Federal Government being the majority funder at a requested (75) seventy-five perfect of total operations and maintenance costs. Local and State costs would be the remaining (25) twenty-five percent with an additional estimated cost of $30,000/annually to maintain the conveyance of flow under the bridge. Alternative 3.2.2a is projected to employ several thousands of workers in the South Florida area and is estimated to take up to (4) four years for completion.

When conducting an overview of this alternative, our group came across a variety of factors that play a part in evaluating and weighing the pros and cons of this policy option. The most widely cited positive outcome of this project is its anticipated effect in restoring a more natural flow of waters within the Everglades National Park. The proposed changes under the alternative would work to allow for an increased level of environmental integrity in a relatively short period of time. With one of the most vital and tedious tasks completed, the focus could then be shifted to smaller projects under CERP; thereby expediting a movement towards completing all restoration objectives. From an economic standpoint, this project alternative would also help stimulate the local economy through the creation of jobs both in the short and long term. Additionally, the total cost of the alternative is under $100 million. This price is considerably smaller than other alternatives and previous options introduced by the Army Corps of Engineers.

While many support the proposed alternative, it is also important to divulge that this alternative has received a great deal of opposition from policy actors involved in this issue. On the public interest/environmental side, the alternative has been denounced as being too small in scale. Many feel that a 1-mile stretch of the bridge is simply too small to restore the required sheet flow to mend the ecosystem. However, the alternative has received the most opposition from the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. On November 13, 2008, the Tribe even went so far as to request a preliminary injunction against plans to move forward with the alternative citing that the required environmental analysis had not been completed. Like the environmental/public interest stakeholders, the Tribe is concerned over the overall effectiveness of the alternative-especially in relation to its cost. Additionally, increased chances of flooding of their tribal land due to changes in the water flow patterns has raised a multitude of concerns which the Tribe feels must be addressed through further environmental analysis and research.

The second policy alternative that we will be looking at is also part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). It is simply the completion of the Tamiami Trail Modifications Plan through several criteria: 1) The completion of the Tamiami Trail one mile bridge and the C-111 spreader canal phase one, 2) Entrance into the beginning of integrated planning and implementation for a phase two package of essential southern Everglades projects, such as Southern DECOMP, seepage management, Tamiami Trail phase two, and the C-111 spreader canal phase two, and 3) To complete construction of the necessary storage and treatment of capability in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).

The completion of the Tamiami Trail one-mile bridge and C-111 spreader canal phase one is the most certain way to bring early, incremental restoration benefits to the southern Everglades and Florida Bay. It will also begin to answer important questions about ecosystem responses to increases in flow rates and volumes to complete phase one of these two core projects. A monitoring program must be in place to show ecological responses to new flows across the Tamiami Trail and increased flows into lower Taylor Slough, respectively, as a basis for extrapolating the larger hydrological requirements for meeting restoration objectives.

Criteria 2, as listed above, will comprise the heart of the plan to restore the central and southern Everglades through the restoration of flow through the River of Grass. Thus, their implementation is critical to the overall restoration of the system and must be accomplished as soon as possible. They are being pursued as individual efforts within the overall restoration plan. To ensure that the individual projects are cohesive and properly integrated, a coordinated planning initiative should be established. This planning initiative would identify the regional volume and flow requirements and delivery options for the central and southern Everglades, southern marl prairies, eastern Big Cypress, mangrove estuaries and Florida Bay. This initiative would also define an implementation strategy using incremental adaptive restoration and adaptive management principles to ensure the proper sequence of implementation for the various parts. That is, the integrated plan would ensure that seepage management along the eastern boundary of the central and southern Everglades is provided concurrently with the restoration of flows. Those flows would be accomplished through completing modifications to elevate and bridge Tamiami Trail, create an open (free-flowing) system in the central Everglades by removing the adverse effects of the L-67, L-29, and L-28 canals/levees on the natural system, and deliver more natural volumes of water into the Big Cypress/southwestern estuaries and the Taylor Slough/Florida Bay southern estuaries.

Tamiami Trail will continue as a major constraint to restoring the Everglades and Florida Bay until substantial additional hydrological connectivity is established across the Trail. Numerous studies of potential solutions along the Trail exist from which to pull together policy recommendations within 12 months for a phase two Tamiami Trail plan, to increase and restore more natural water flow across the WCA-3 and Everglades National Park interface, thereby reconnecting areas of the historic Everglades that are now separated.

Lastly, the completion of the construction of the necessary storage and treatment capability in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is vital. Successful restoration will require the capability to send large quantities of treated water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, to re-establish the historic flow connection within the watershed. It will also require sufficient storage to replace the natural dynamic storage that once existed in the Everglades. Treatment for 1-1.8 million acre-feet and storage of 1.5-2 million acre-feet of water is needed to restore natural flows into the Loxahatchee Refuge, Central/Southern Everglades, and downstream estuaries.

Annotated bibliography

Anderson, David et al. (2008). Comments on Draft Tamiami Trail Modification Limited Reevaluation Report and Environmental Assessment [PDF Document]. 

This letter which was written on behalf of numerous environmental/public interest stakeholders to Bradley Foster of the Army Corps of Engineers was an excellent resource in allowing one to grasp the perspective that many people felt about the decision to implement Alternative 3.2.2a. It touches on the concerns and perceived shortcomings of the plan and is an excellent resource for formulating debate against Alternative 3.2.2a as being the ideal policy action.

Brinkman, Paul. (2009). U.S. House Approves Big Money for Everglades.

This article discusses the current state of the Tamiami Trail Modifications by announcing that the project will be receiving an influx of approximately $60 million (pending Congressional and Presidential approval). This is a major step in getting Alternative 3.2.2a or a similar proposal underway. It briefly touches on the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians reaction and raises the question of what is to come for the project in the near future.

Clark, Lesley and Curtis, Morgan. (2009). Money, White House Pick Revive Restoration Hopes

This article provided valuable information on the recent Everglades Restoration bill’s passing and discussed possible other projects that may be in the works. It also provided a great deal of information regarding the recent injunction sought by Miccosukee and provided a local perspective on the situation.

Department of the Interior. (2008). Department of the Interior Vision and Plan for Successful Everglades Restoration

This report provided the groundwork for the vision of the Everglades Restoration Plan by the Department of the Interior. It also proposes pathways and priorities to achieve this vision expeditiously.

NBC 6 News. (2008). Feds Pump $1 Million more into Tamiami Trail Planning. 

This article, which was posted last year, discusses how much the Federal Government handed over to the Army Corps of Engineers. This extra money was granted with the sole purpose of evaluating what is the next course of action needed along Tamiami Trail to restore water flows to Everglades National Park.

Regalado, Nanciann E. (2008). Everglades Report [PDF Document]. 

This report was very informative in providing information about the preliminary injunction of Alternative 3.2.2a by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. It also provided an easily read, easily understandable brief history of the Tamiami Trail Modifications Project.

South Florida Water Management District. (2008). Quick Facts On…Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park Project: Tamiami Trail Modifications [PDF Document]. (SFWMD Publication). West Palm Beach, FL.

The publication was extremely helpful in breaking down some of the water management principles and practices which relate to the Everglades and the Tamiami Trail. The document expanded on the different methods currently used to manage flows in the region and some of the proposed changes that SFWMD is advocating.

Worth, Dewey. (2008). Modified Water Deliveries Project: Tamiami Trail Bridge [Powerpoint Presentation].

This work provided a great deal of information on the Modified Water Deliveries Project: Tamiami Trail Modifications. In particular, this presentation was particularly helpful in that it outlined the total costs of the projects. Additionally, it provided fantastic visual aids which will definitely be utilized in my group’s project presentation.

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