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Project Summary

In 2000, Congress approved and funded a massive 30-year restoration effort for the Florida Everglades - the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). In 2008, the National Academies of Sciences recommended that restoration projects in the Everglades include long-term plans and sea level rise effects. Because CERP involves federal, state, and local partnerships (along with guaranteed funding), it may serve as an ideal platform from which to effectively plan and implement sea level rise adaptation plans. In 2009, a CERP Climate Change Team was created to develop and implement climate change adaptation policies by 2015.

Project Background

Florida has multiple ongoing efforts to prepare for future sea level rise; models estimate that sea level could rise by 3-5 feet which could jeopardize an estimated 13.5 million people that live within 25 miles of the shoreline. In Southeast Florida, sea level rise is being addressed around two major initiatives. Local governments have organized themselves under a Regional Climate Change Compact while the federal, regional, and state agencies are focusing efforts on the Everglades restoration process.

The Everglades are currently undergoing a massive restoration effort and sea level rise is slowly becoming incorporated into long-term plans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, with many supporting partners, are currently working together to implement projects authorized under CERP. 

The Everglades receive waters from 16 counties over an 18,000 square mile area in central and southern Florida. In 2000, the CERP, an update of the Central and Sourthern Florida (C&SF) Project of 1948, was approved. CERP outlines a framework to guide the restoration, protection, and preservation of the water resources of central and southern Florida. An unintended consequence of the C&SF Project was a drying out of some critical areas, thus one of the main goals of CERP is to redirect 1.7 billion gallons of freshwater a day into the areas that need it the most, such as the Everglades. To improve landscape connectivity, roughly 240 miles of internal levees and canals will be removed. New water storage areas on land formerly preserved for agriculture or new development will be created to support changes in freshwater flow patterns.  

Project Implementation

Given that CERP was approved by Congress and awarded $7.8 billion dollars of funding for projects, it seemed logical to use the CERP framework as a venue to incorporate the impacts of sea level rise. In 2008, the National Academies of Science Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress released a memorandum entitled Sea Level Rise Considerations for Formulation and Evaluation of CERP Projects. Reports projected 0.5-5 feet of sea level rise. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a new Engineering Circular that incorporates uncertainties of sea level rise into CERP project planning. The CERP framework provides a unique combination of federal, state, and local stakeholders with the central mission to restore historical water flows to the Everglades. In reference to climate change adaptation, partners are taking on particular roles and research to assure a complete assessment.

A CERP Climate Change Team was created with a vision to “minimize future negative impacts and adaptation costs...[by collaborating] to quickly identify climate change sensitivities in natural areas and developed areas" in order to create and implement adaptation policies by 2015.

CERP partners are providing various tools and information to create sea level rise guidance for the Everglades. Partners and their contributions include the:

  • U.S. Geological Survey - models of climate change effects on habitats, species, and hydrology in the region
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - sea level rise scenarios and land loss projections to 27 Florida National Wildlife Refuges
  • Everglades National Park - analysis of climate change and possible community-level effects
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary - collection and analysis of climate change on surrounding coral reefs
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency - updates to flood insurance maps to include climate change
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - sea level rise guidance into Civil Works programs
  • South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils - studies of hurricane evacuation protocols

Project Outcomes and Conclusions

In general, policymakers and scientists alike are having difficulty in selecting an appropriate target sea level rise benchmark for which to plan. Also, planners need better LIDAR maps of landscapes to make determinations of areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

Using the CERP framework to begin to adapt to the effects of climate change may hold promise because federal, state, and local partnerships have already been established and there is a pre-established source of funding for future projects. Coordinated efforts will facilitate the dissemination of data, models, and outreach information.

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Recommended Citation

Feifel, K. & Gregg, R.M. (2010). Responding to Sea Level Rise Under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan [Case study on a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - South Florida Restoration Office]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/responding-sea-level-rise-under-compre... (Last updated December 2010)