On February 14, the Sierra Club scored a major victory in its campaign to restore wetlands in Florida when the National Park Service gave the final go-ahead on a plan to build 5.5 miles of bridges over Tamiami Trail to restore fresh water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. The approved project expands on the one-mile bridge now under construction, and will provide “unconstrained flow patterns” as well as “more than five times the connectivity between marshes.” Furthermore, under this expanded plan, ten of the historical sloughs that once flowed unobstructed would be reconnected.
Miami Businessman Frank Jaudon built the trail (road) across the Everglades in 1928, primarily to drain land and provide access for development. The following year, however, the Great Depression scuttled his plans. Yet the lasting legacy of road remains, continuing to cut off water flow to the area’s wetlands. The Sierra Club, which has long advocated for the bridging of Tamiami Trail, applauds the expanded bridge plan and looks forward to starting construction.
The Club led a huge effort throughout the long process to securing the bridges. Specifically, the Club sponsored University of Miami Geological Sciences Chair Hal Wanless’ presentation to the Everglades Coalition on the need for a skyway to restore flow through the Everglades, not only to replenish the wetland but also to hold back the surge of sea level rise. Sierra Club members and volunteers participated in dozens of calls with the Everglades Coalition and Everglades Foundation-funded groups to agree on positions, write comment letters, and seek a better decision from the Army Corps of Engineers (who had proposed an unsound, expensive bridge system). The Sierra Club also held meetings with private bridge engineers, designers, contractors, and national park scientists, generating favorable editorials in the Miami Herald.
The approved bridge project is strongly backed by the Sierra Club-led Everglades Skyway Coalition, whose members include municipalities, businesses, civic groups, and environmental organizations. In addition to the environmental benefits of the project, the bridge construction will generate more than 7,100 jobs.
Earlier this year, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his commitment to the expanded bridge plan in saying, “It will be one of my highest priorities as Secretary.”
View the full text of Secretary Salazar’s speech here.