Saving the Everglades


FLORIDA'S incomparable Everglades is dying, victim of a century of draining, diking and pumping its freshwater out to sea to make way for farms and urban development.

Piecemeal remedies have failed to revive the giant wetlands, so a massive $8 billion federal-state plan aims to restore its natural water flow. But the project needs congressional approval as this session draws to a close; it can't be left to the uncertainties of a new administration and Congress.

Absent action, the unique ecosystem will be lost. Most of its wading birds and forested islands have disappeared; more than 600 species are on the endangered-threatened list.

Everglades National Park could close, with nothing left to preserve, its chief warns.

Pledges from Florida and Washington to share the cost of this 22-year plan are critical. The Everglades is a national treasure, as well as a state asset.

This project will eliminate 240 miles of canals and dikes that disrupt the natural southward water flow from Lake Okeechobee, diverting 1.5 billion gallons of valuable fresh water daily into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Surface reservoirs and underground wells will capture and hold water for the dry season.

The plan seems to assure the lion's share of new water for environmental revival, not for development. Federal authority will determine restoration rules. That's an essential element.

Approval of the Everglades plan appears near in the Senate, but the House is less enthusiastic. This plan must not perish, for with it will die America's River of Grass.

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