THE EVERGLADES -- A project is underway to remove about 5 miles of old road bed of the old Tamiami Trail, improving water flow south to Everglades National Park.
The project is a component of the larger Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), which also includes the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project. CEPP will help deliver additional clean water from Lake Okeechobee south to Water Conservation Area 3, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
“Protecting Florida’s natural resources for future generations has been a priority of my administration since day one,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in a ceremony at the site on March 30. “At my direction, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District continue to prioritize expediting crucial Everglades and water quality projects including the removal of roadbed from the old Tamiami Trail. This project which will be completed by January of 2022, will increase the flow of clean, freshwater into the Northeast Shark River Slough by more than 220 billion gallons per year and support reduced estuary discharges.”
“The old Tamiami Trail Roadbed Removal project improves water quality, restores the ecology of the region and supports sending water south and reducing harmful estuary discharges," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein.
Completed in 1928, Tamiami Trail connects Tampa and Miami. When it was originally built, water was allowed to flow over the road in the wet season. The road would be closed due to the flooding. As traffic increased and heavier vehicles became more common, the road was improved and built up. A system of canals restricted the water flow in order to protect the road.
This turned the Tamiami Trail into a barrier that prevents the flow of water into Everglades National Park.
The Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project will enhance the connectivity and sheet flow between the marshes north and south of the Tamiami Trail while maintaining the transportation link between Southwest Florida and Miami.
Phase 1 of the Next Steps Project improved water flow through the Tamiami Trail with the construction of a one-mile bridge in 2013 and 2.3-miles of bridging completed in 2019. In 2019, Everglades National Park received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to match a commitment from the state of Florida, which provided a total of $100 million funding for Phase 2.
By the completion of Phase 2, water is expected to flow more freely with fewer impediments into Everglades National Park for the first time since the early 1900s. Significantly and safely increasing water flow into the park will rehydrate more than one million acres of park lands and stabilize the salinity and health of Florida Bay, which is considered to be critical to the success of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and to achieving a restored Everglades.