SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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ISSUES REGARDING EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK AND SURROUNDING AREAS IMPACTED BY MANAGEMENT OF THE EVERGLADES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
APRIL 27, 1999, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10624
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Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/house
Committee address: http://www.house.gov/resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARK E. SOUDER, Indiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
MIKE SIMPSON, Idaho
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado
GEORGE MILLER, California
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-CHRISTENSEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
JAY INSLEE, Washington
GRACE F. NAPOLITANO, California
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
MARK UDALL, Colorado
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah, Chairman
ELTON, GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCRICHARD W. POMBO, California
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
RICK HILL, Montana
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARK E. SOUDER, Indiana
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
DONNA CHRISTIAN-CHRISTENSEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
JAY INSLEE, Washington
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
MARK UDALL, Colorado
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
ALLEN FREEMYER, Counsel
TODD HULL, Professional Staff
LIZ BIRNBAUM, Democratic Counsel
GARY GRIFFITH, Professional Staff
C O N T E N T S
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Hearing held Month, Day, 1999
Statements of Members:
Hansen, Hon. James V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah
Prepared statement of
Romero-Barceló, Hon. Carlos, a Delegate in Congress from the Territory of Puerto Rico
Prepared statement of
Letter to Hon. Alex Penelas, Mayor of Miami-Dade County, from Hon. Bob Graham, and Hon. Connie Mack
Statements of witnesses:
Aguilera, Ibel, The United Property Owners & Friends of the 8.5 Square Mile Area, Inc.
Prepared statement of
Jones, Ronald D., Ph.D, Southeast Environmental Research Program, Florida International University
Prepared statement of
Leary, William, Senior Counselor to Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, National Park Service; accompanied by Richard Ring, Superintendent of the Everglades National Park
Prepared statement of
Lehtinen, Dexter, Esq., Lehtinen, O'Donnell, Vargas & Reiner, P.S., representing Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida
Lorion, Joette, Environmental Consultant
Prepared statement of
MacVicar, Thomas K., P.E., President, Federico & Lamb, Inc.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement of
Rice, Colonel Terry L., U.S. Army Retired, Florida International University, and Advisor, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of FloridA
Prepared statement of
Shiver, Hon. Steve, Mayor, City of Homestead, Florida
Prepared statement of
Additional material supplied:
Barley, Mary L., The Everglades Foundation, Inc., prepared statement of
Diaz-Balart, Hon. Lincoln, letter to Mr. Hansen
Dieguez, Elena, prepared statement of
Forten, Madeleine, prepared statement of
Prieto, Armando J., prepared statement of
Rinaldi, Charles R., Deputy Director, South Florida Water Management District, Florida, letter to landonwers
Walfer, Ray, Senior Real Estate Specialist
Rosario, Emilio, prepared statement of
Sweeting, Debbie, prepared statement of
Sweeting, Robert, prepared statement of
Truth Patrol: Rebutting the Myth and Misinformation Campaign in the 8.5 Square Mile Area
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON ISSUES REGARDING EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK AND SURROUNDING AREAS IMPACTED BY MANAGEMENT OF THE EVERGLADES
TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 1999
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHouse of Representatives,
Subcommittee on National
Parks and Public Lands,
Committee on Resources,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m. in Room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. James V. Hansen [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. HANSEN. The Committee will come to order.
Good morning and welcome to the oversight hearing today. We have many people here today, so I would like to make an opening statement and proceed with the business at hand.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
The Everglades, in the State of Florida, represents the largest wetland ecosystem in the United States, about 18,000 square miles of land, rivers, and lakes. This complex ecosystem has been considerably impacted by the development and water management in central and south Florida. Over many years, various protective measures for the Everglades have been enacted by Congress, but problems still abound.
The Clinton Administration has more recently announced the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative which led to the creation of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force by the Water Resources Development Act of 1996. This Task Force is comprised of a large number of Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies and stakeholders and has established three main goals: one, get the water right, that is, restoring the natural hydrological function of the Everglades; two, restore the natural systems by land acquisition and changing land use; and, three, transform the developed environment.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finding solutions to restore the Everglades has not been cheap. Since 1993, approximately $1.2 billion has been provided from Federal funding to implement the activities of the Restoration Initiative. It is projected that at least $11 billion will be spent on these activities over the next 20 years. Where and how this enormous amount of money has and will be spent is, obviously, of great concern to this Committee.
The issues surrounding the huge area of land and water of the Everglades are as complex as the ecosystem. Many of these issues are linked to the Restoration Initiative and will be examined within the scope of this oversight hearing. Areas in particular that are the subject of this oversight hearing include the land acquisition requirements in the 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act and subsequent amendment in 1994 and how these requirements impacted the Modified Water Delivery Project, the Miccosukee Indian Tribe, and an area of land known as 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
In 1989, Congress passed the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act, which authorized the addition of 107,600 acres of land in the eastern part of the Park. This Act also authorized the Modified Water Deliveries Project, Mod-Water Project, which, when finished, supposedly will restore the natural water flow into the Shark River Slough by moving water under the Tamiama Trail and into the Everglades National Park.
It was the express intent of the Congress that all the land acquisition be completed by 1994 and was expected to cost approximately $81 million. To date, however, both the land acquisition and the Mod-Water Project are years behind schedule, with the Mod-Water Project now not scheduled for completion until 2003, if everything goes right, and it probably won't.
The cost of the land is projected to be at least $50 million more than the first estimate. So far, less than 60 percent of the land has been acquired, and most of this has been the larger tracts of land. Hundreds of individual landowners still must negotiate a deal, while others have never been contacted.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also in the 1989 Expansion Act was a provision which provided for the flood protection for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. This privately owned area currently has approximately 430 residents and is used extensively for agriculture. Although the Army Corps of Engineers had responsibility for the construction of the flood control project, the Department of the Interior was responsible for funding it. This arrangement has caused nothing but problems and delays. In fact, actual construction of the flood protection was never begun.
Compounding the situation is an amendment to the 1989 Expansion Act passed in 1994 which provided for acquisition of additional lands which affect the restoration of natural water flows to the Everglades National Park or Florida Bay. The amendment also authorized the Federal Government to provide not more than 25 percent of the funds necessary for the total cost of the acquisition.
The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area was included in this amendment. However, because of the development within the area, its geographic location and elevation, it is clear that the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area should not be considered to affect the natural water flow of the Everglades. I think we will see conclusive evidence of that. As a matter of fact, studies commissioned by three separate Governors of Florida along with many scientists and hydrologists support this finding.
In regard to the funding, Secretary of Interior Babbitt has stated they will contribute 50 percent of the amount needed to buy out the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area clearly exceeding the 25 percent threshold mandated by Congress. It amazes me. The authority Secretary Babbitt has for far-exceeding the 25 percent threshold has not been forthcoming from the Interior Department.
In 1992, the Army Corps of Engineers, in consultation with the Park Service, submitted a report which stated that acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area was not necessary and included mitigation measures to protect the area from flooding.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Contrary to that report, the Park Service maintained that this was not an acceptable solution. The Park Service, therefore, has refused to release the funds mandated by the 1989 Expansion Act to provide flood control for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. In fact, in 1998, the Park Service notified the Corps of Engineers that it would no longer provide funds for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area flood mitigation.
Also in 1998, the South Florida Water Management District issued a decision endorsed by the Park Service to acquire the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area rather than implement the flood mitigation plan proposed by the Corps of Engineers in 1992. However, it is clear from the bill report language accompanying the 1994 amendment that the Act does not authorize Federal imminent domain.
It is known that the vast majority of land owners in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area are not willing sellers. The lack of willing sellers prevents another formidable obstacle to overcome before natural water flows begin.
Regardless of whether the reason is the non-attainment of the land acquisition mandated in the 1989 Expansion Act or the failure to construct the flood mitigation measures for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area or the forced proposal to outright acquire the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, the fact remains that natural water flows through the Everglades have been needlessly delayed.
The Park Service's delays and purposeful inactivity to get the water flowing again has severe negative impacts on lands that the Miccosukee Indian Tribe has use of, namely Water Conservation Area 3A. Because the Park Service has been delinquent in implementing any plan that actually moves the water, it has been stacking up in the WCA 3A for a number of years. This has led to unnaturally high water levels throughout the water conservation area. The effect of this water stacking has been dramatic. In fact, the Everglades in WCA 3A is drowning. Tree islands, known as hammocks, are disappearing as tree roots rot because of high water levels. Wildlife within this area is dying as well. All of this combination has had and will continue to have severe and dire consequences to the Everglades if water does not start flowing again.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the primary goals of everyone involved in the Everglades is to get the water moving again in a more natural flow. For a variety of reasons, however, the Interior Department and the Park Service are doing their utmost to delay projects and avoid reasonable solutions which will accomplish this.
The fact remains that something has got to be done to implement projects that will help restore natural water flows as soon as possible. Delaying known solutions only exacerbates these problems. The Congress must find ways to implement activities which will get the water moving once again. This oversight hearing intends to help accomplish this goal.
I would like to invite Everglades Superintendent Richard Ring to please sit at the witness table. Is that you at the table?
Mr. LEARY. No, sir. My name is Bill Leary.
Mr. HANSEN. Let us get Mr. Ring up there if we could. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Ring.
I also want to mention that the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to testify today and be present to answer questions. Even though their offices received an invitation on April 15, they contend that they were unaware of the hearing until last Friday, so they will not be here today and even declined to send someone to answer any questions.
Is there anyone here from the Corps of Engineers? We are going to have to exercise the power of subpoena around here, aren't we? I guess snafus like this one is symptomatic of the Federal Government not taking action in the Everglades.
With that, I will welcome all of our witnesses, and I will recognize my friend from Puerto Rico, the Ranking Minority Member, for any comments that he may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hansen follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Good morning everyone and welcome to the oversight hearing today. We have many people here to testify, so I'd like to make an opening statement and then proceed to the business at hand.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Everglades, in the State of Florida, represents the largest wetlands ecosystem in the United Statesabout 18,000 square miles of land, rivers, and lakes. This complex ecosystem has been considerably impacted by development and water management in central and south Florida. Over many years various protective measures for the Everglades have been enacted by Congress, but problems still abound. The Clinton Administration has more recently announced the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative which led to the creation of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force by the Water Resources Development Act of 1996. This Task Force is comprised of a large number of Federal, state, tribal, and local agencies and stakeholders and has established three main goals: (1) Get the water right, i.e., restoring the natural hydrological function of the Everglades; (2) Restore the natural systems by land acquisition and changing land use; and (3) Transform the developed environment.
Finding solutions to restore the Everglades has not been cheap. Since 1993 approximately $1.2 billion has been provided from Federal funding to implement the activities of the Restoration Initiative. It is projected that at least $11 billion will be spent on these activities over the next twenty years. Where and how this enormous amount of money has and will be spent is, obviously, of great concern to us.
The issues surrounding the huge area of land and water of the Everglades are as complex as the ecosystem. Many of these issues are linked to the Restoration Initiative and will be examined within the scope of this oversight hearing. Areas in particular that are the subject of this oversight hearing include the land acquisition requirements in the 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act and subsequent amendment in 1994 and how these requirements impact the Modified Water Delivery Project, the Miccosukee Indian Tribe, and an area of land known as the 8.5 square mile area.
In 1989, Congress passed the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act which authorized the addition of 107,600 acres of land to the eastern part of the park. This Act also authorized the Modified Water Deliveries Project (Mod-Water Project) which, when finished, supposedly will restore the natural water flow into the Shark River Slough by moving water under the Tamiama Trail and into the Everglades National Park. It was the express intent of the Congress that all the land acquisition be completed by 1994 and was expected to cost approximately $81 million. To date, however, both the land acquisition and Mod-Water Project are years behind schedule with the Mod-Water Project now not scheduled for completion until 2003, if everything goes rightand it probably won't. The cost of the land is projected to be at least $50 million dollars more than the first estimate. So far, less than 60 percent of the land has been acquired and most of this has been the larger tracts of land. Hundreds of individual landowners still must negotiate a deal, while others have never been contacted.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also in the 1989 Expansion Act was a provision which provided for the flood protection for the 8.5 Square Mile Area. This privately owned area currently has approximately 430 residences and is used extensively for agricultural. Although the Army Corps of Engineers had responsibility for the construction of the flood control project, the Department of the Interior was responsible for funding it. This arrangement has caused nothing but problems and delays. In fact, actual construction of the flood protection was never begun.
Compounding the situation is an amendment to the 1989 Expansion Act passed in 1994 which provided for acquisition of additional lands which affect the restoration of natural water flows to the Everglades NP or Florida Bay. The amendment also authorized the Federal Government to provide not more than 25 percent of the funds necessary for the total cost of the acquisition. The 8.5 Square Mile Area was included in this amendment. However, because of the development within this area, its geographic location, and its elevation, it is clear that the 8.5 Square Mile Area should not be considered to affect the natural water flow of the Everglades. I think we will see conclusive evidence of this today. As a matter of fact, studies commissioned by three separate Governors of Florida along with many scientists and hydrologists support this finding.
In regard to the funding, Secretary of Interior Babbitt has stated that they will contribute 50 percent of the amount needed to buyout the 8.5 Square Mile Area clearly exceeding the 25 percent threshold mandated by the 1994 amendment. The authority Secretary Babbitt has for far-exceeding the 25 percent threshold has not been forthcoming from the Interior Department.
In 1992, the Army Corps of Engineers, in consultation with the Park Service, submitted a report which stated that acquisition of the 8.5 Square Mile Area was not necessary and included mitigation measures to protect the area from flooding. Contrary to that report, the Park Service maintained that this was not an acceptable solution. The Park Service, therefore, has refused to release the funds mandated by the 1989 Expansion Act to provide flood control for the 8.5 Square Mile Area. In fact, in 1998 the Park Service notified the Corps of Engineers that it would no longer provide funds for the 8.5 Square Mile Area flood mitigation. Also in 1998, the South Florida Water Management District issued a decision, endorsed by the Park Service, to acquire the 8.5 Mile Square Area rather than implement the flood mitigation plan proposed by the Corps of Engineers in 1992. However, it is clear from the bill report language accompanying the 1994 amendment that the Act does not authorize Federal imminent domain. It is known that the vast majority of land owners in the 8.5 Square Mile Area are not willing sellers. The lack of willing sellers presents another formidable obstacle to overcome before natural water flows begin.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regardless of whether the reason is the non-attainment of the land acquisition mandated in the Area, or the forced proposal to outright acquire the 8.5 Square Mile Area, the fact remains that natural water flows through the Everglades have been needlessly delayed. The Park Service's delays and purposeful inactivity to get the water flowing again has had severe negative impacts on lands that the Miccosukee Indian Tribe has use of, namely Water Conservation Area 3A. Because the Park Service has been delinquent in implementing any plan that actually moves water, it has been stacking up in WCA 3A for a number of years. This has led to unnaturally high water levels throughout this water conservation area. The effect of this water stacking has been dramatic and, although counterintuitive, the fact is the Everglades in WCA 3A is drowning. Tree islands, known as hammocks, are disappearing as tree roots rot because of high water levels. Wildlife within this area is dying as well. All of this combined has had and will continue to have severe and dire consequence for the Everglades if water does not start flowing again.
One of the primary goals of everyone involved in the Everglades is to get the water moving again in a more natural flow. For a variety of reasons however, the Interior Department and the Park Service are doing their utmost to delay projects and avoid reasonable solutions which will accomplish this. The fact remains that something has got be done to implement projects that will help restore natural water flows as soon as possible. Delaying known solutions only exacerbates these problems. The Congress must find ways to implement activities which will get the water moving once again. This oversight hearing intends to help accomplish this goal.
I would like to invite Everglades Superintendent Richard Ring to please sit at the witness table, as I am fairly certain that at least a few questions will come his way. I also want to mention that the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to testify today and be present to answer questions. Even though their offices received an invitation on April 15, they contend they were unaware of the hearing until last Friday, so they will not be here today and even declined to send someone to answer any questions. I guess snafus like this one is symptomatic of the Federal Government not taking action in the Everglades.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With that, I'd like to welcome all our witnesses here and now recognize the Ranking Minority Member for any comments.
STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem has been a matter of considerable importance to this Committee, as well as to the entire Congress.
I remember the first Congress I was here, we had a field trip hearing down in the Everglades, beyond the Everglades, into Key West to see the effect that the flow of the waters had had on the Keys. So it has been somethingthat and many other issues have been before this Committee very, very often.
The 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act as well as the Act's 1994 Amendment involved the bipartisan effort of this Committee, as well as the Florida congressional delegation. It is our understanding that this oversight hearing is focusing on the 1989 Act and its 1994 Amendment, particularly the land acquisition of the Congressional Acts.
Evidently, with funds provided by Congress, the National Park Service has made significant progress in acquiring the 107,600 acres of lands authorized by the 1989 Act for the Park. The 1994 Amendment to the Everglades Act specifically authorized the Secretary of the Interior to contribute to the State of Florida up to 25 percent of the cost of acquiring three areas, including an area known as the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. The 1996 Farm Bill and the fiscal year 1999 Appropriations Act subsequently authorized the Federal contribution of 50 percent for these acquisitions.
The decision of South Florida Water Management District to proceed with the acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area has been a matter of considerable controversy. We understand that the National Park Service is undertaking a NEPA review as part of determining whether to proceed with contributing to the acquisition as authorized by Congress.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The important thing here is that there has been a great delay in the implementation of all of this plan, as the Chairman has indicated.
Also, I would like to point out I have met with my staff to try to figure out why the changes in the plans of the acquisition of the land and why the interest in acquiring the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area instead of doingbuilding up the levees and the dams that were supposed to be built around the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. I just don't understand. I hope that in this hearing we get some clarification as to why these changes have been made so we would understand what is the reason instead of following the original plan.
Mr. Chairman, the 1989 Everglades Protection Act and the Act's 1994 Amendments are important aspects of the effort to restore the Everglades. We look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses today in regards to these matters.
Mr. HANSEN. I thank the gentleman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Romero-Barcelo follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. CARLOS ROMERO-BARCELÓ, A DELEGATE IN CONGRESS FROM THE TERRITORY OF PUERTO RICO
Mr. Chairman, the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem has been a matter of considerable importance to this Committee, as well as to the entire Congress.
The 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act, as well as that Act's 1994 Amendment involved the bipartisan efforts of this Committee, as well as the Florida Congressional delegation. It is our understanding that this oversight hearing is focusing on the 1989 Act and its 1994 Amendment, particularly the land acquisition of the Congressional Acts.
Evidently, with funds provided by Congress, the National Park Service has made significant progress in acquiring the 107,600 acres of lands authorized by the 1989 Act for the Park. The 1994 Amendment to the Everglades Act specifically authorized the Secretary of the Interior to contribute to the State of Florida up to 25 percent of the cost of acquiring three areas, including an area known as the eight and one-half square mile area. The 1996 Farm bill and the Fiscal Year 1999 Appropriations Act subsequently authorized a Federal contribution of 50 percent for these acquisitions.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The decision of the South Florida Water Management District to proceed with the acquisition of the eight and one-half square mile area has been a matter of considerable controversy. We understand that the National Park Service is undertaking a NEPA review as part of determining whether to proceed with contributing to the acquisition as authorized by Congress.
Mr. Chairman, the 1989 Everglades Protection Act and the Act's 1994 Amendments are important aspects of the effort to restore the Everglades. We look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses today in regards to these matters.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Nevada, do you have any opening comments?
The gentlelady from the Virgin Islands?
The gentleman from Washington?
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM LEARY, SENIOR COUNSELOR TO ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE; ACCOMPANIED BY RICHARD RING, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
Mr. HANSEN. I appreciate our witnesses being with us today.
Mr. Leary, I will start with you; and then we will ask Mr. Ring if you have any comments. The floor is yours.
Mr. LEARY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Bill Leary. I am senior counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of Interior. I also serve as an advisor to Secretary Babbitt on matters relating to the Everglades and south Florida ecosystem.
Mr. Chairman, I have a statement for the record that I believe addresses the issues, as I understand them, you wish to discuss today. However, in the interest of time, what I prefer to do is address the issue that seems to be, at least from your statement, the central issue before us, which is the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. If you will indulge me, I would like to just very briefly explain to you how we got from where we were to where we are today with respect to the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Leary, let me say this. Your statement and all other statements, without objection, will be included in the record in full. Any way you want to abbreviate your statement is perfectly fine with us.
Mr. LEARY. Thank you, sir.
The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area needs to be understoodissues relating to it need to be understood, in the following context that I would like to lay out for you.
In the 1970s, Congress enacted a series of Acts to make sure that water deliveries to Everglades National Park were adequate to protect the Park. In 1988, Governor Martinez appointed a task force which came to the conclusion that the Park was receiving inadequate waters through its main artery, Shark Slough.
In 1989, in reaction to those concerns expressed from the State of Florida and others, Congress enacted the 1989 Everglades Park Protection and Expansion Act which, Mr. Chairman, you referred to.
That Act did three things. It authorized the Secretary of the Interior to expand Everglades National Park by roughly 107,000 acres, to bring more of Shark Slough into Federal ownership. Two, it authorized the Corps of Engineers to design the Modified Water Deliveries Project to improve the delivery of the water into the Park. And, three, it provided that, in designing the project, the Corps was to protect the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area and other residential and agriculture nearby areas from the impacts of that water delivery system.
The Corps of Engineers designed the Modified Water Deliveries Project in 1992. The announcement of the design of that was immediately followed by Hurricane Andrew which hit the area. You will be hearing more about the impacts of that storm from one of your witnesses, Mayor Shiver, later. But that brought a lot of things to a halt as people were picking up their lives down in south Florida.
In any event, in 1993, the State and others determined that Florida Bay was suffering great harm. Florida Bay is also the recipient of much of its water from Shark Slough through Everglades National Park. So the issue was revisited by the Congress in 1994.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, Mr. Chairman, as you mentioned, in 1994, the Congress suggested and authorized us to take a different approach, suggesting that perhaps the best approach was to buy the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, Rocky Glades and the Frog Pond to the south, and provided the Secretary with the authority to cost share with the State of Florida for the acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area and those other properties.
In 1995, Governor Chiles appointed a committee to look at the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. That committee was composed of representatives of the State of Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, the Corps of Engineers, Everglades National Park, and the residents of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
They took a year looking at the options, a little bit less than a year, and issued a report, a unanimous determination, Mr. Chairman, by all of those parties. They rejected full acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area and rejected the original Corps plan. What they suggested was a flow way buffer approach to the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that linked it to the flow way buffer that was being designed for the C-111 project to the south. It was a unanimous decision.
The parties then attempted to enter into an agreement, a statement of principles to effect that proposal. All parties signed onto it. The Corps of Engineers, through the district engineer at the time, who is one of your witnesses today, refused to sign the statement of principles. So he raised questions, legitimate questions, about whether that was the best approach. But his refusal to sign meant that the deal fell apart.
The South Florida Water Management District then in 1996 took it upon itself to review the alternatives to determine if it wanted to do a locally preferred option to the Corps' project. They engaged in that analysis.
During the course of their analysis, which began in 1996 and culminated last November, 1998, the Governors Commission for Sustainable South Florida, which is a group in south Florida appointed by the Governors and composed of representatives of virtually all interest groups, addressed this subject. A subcommittee of the Commission, headed by another one of your witnesses today, Mr. Lehtinen, encouraged the commission to adopt a resolution that was in the nature of asking the South Florida Water Management District, to make a decision and move on. It encouraged the Water Management District to make a decision about what it wanted to do as a locally preferred option by December 31st, 1998, and to come up with a funding solution for it by September of 1999.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Heeding that advice, in part, the Water Management District Governing Board in November of 1998, after analyzing all the alternatives, came to the conclusion that it supported full acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. This was well within the recommended time line.
As a result of that decision, the Corps of Engineers is now engaged in the NEPA process of reviewing that alternative and the options before it. The Department of Interior has engaged with the Corps to try to expedite the NEPA analysis for the purpose of determining which option to support financially. And that is where we find ourselves today.
Mr. Chairman, because the decision is yet to be determined, I don't know what the outcome is going to be. I believe I understand the views of the residents of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area area. I have been there. I have met with them. Mr. Chairman, for the most part, they want to be left alone. I believe I understand the views of the Miccosukee Tribe. I have had many spirited and frank conversations with both Mr. Lehtinen and Mr. Rice about the concerns of the Tribe. We understand them.
We are attempting, Mr. Chairman, to do the right thing for Everglades National Park consistent with our understanding of what congressional intent is. We believe you should expect that of us, and that is what we are attempting to do, Mr. Chairman.
I am here representing the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior as your witness. I will be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Leary. We appreciate that.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Leary follows:]
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM LEARY, SENIOR COUNSELOR TO THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE AND PARKS
Mr. Chairman, my name is Bill Leary. I serve as Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior. I also serve as an advisor to Secretary Babbitt on issues related to the restoration of the Everglades and the south Florida Ecosystem. I appear here today on behalf of the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am pleased to be here today to discuss several issues related to the restoration initiative. Secretary Babbitt has repeatedly and accurately referred to this as the largest environmental restoration effort ever undertaken. It is one of the top environmental priorities of the Clinton/Gore Administration and has enjoyed strong bipartisan congressional support.
Because of the enormity and importance of this initiative, the Federal Government has entered into unprecedented relationships with the State of Florida and tribal, regional, and local governments to guide our collective efforts, despite diverse missions and authorities. The progress being made, largely under the auspices of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, is a result of these partnerships and, at the Federal level, from the substantial bipartisan efforts of the Congress and the Administration.
This is an unprecedented undertaking, requiring difficult decisions to resolve complex issues. It requires enormous cooperation among four separate sovereigns, dozens of State and Federal agencies, and hundreds of regional and local governments. So far as possible we attempt to achieve consensus on how we should proceed. Given differing missions, authorities and interests, I believe we are achieving remarkable success in south Florida. That is not to say that there are no disagreements or difficulties to be overcome. But we have the means to resolve them and we do.
As we understand it, the Subcommittee wishes to discuss several issues that affect Everglades National Park: the requirements of the 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act and 1994 amendments, particularly the land acquisition requirements, and how they impact the Modified Water Deliveries Project, the Miccosukee Tribe, and the Water Conservation Areas.
Mr. Chairman, we welcome this hearing and the interest of the Committee members in the important and ongoing efforts to restore the environment of Everglades National Park.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I. Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989
Everglades National Park, established in 1947, has long been considered the most threatened park in the National Park System. The history of Federal and State conservation efforts in the Everglades are directly linked with development of the vast water management system that has led to the decline of the ecosystem in general and the park in particular. Both span over 50 years. The national heritage values at stake are beyond question. It is the only protected sub-tropical wetland in the nation. Its wonders are widely known, and draw visitors from around the nation and the world. The many threats confronting its future are also well-known.
Throughout the park's 52 years, a close Federal and State partnership has mutually worked toward achieving its conservation objectives. As required by its authorizing legislation, the park became a reality in 1947 by the donation of lands from the State of Florida. Over subsequent enlargements of the park boundary, State participation has been a key factor, including the donation of about 43,000 acres within the 1989 expansion area.
A major concern for park restoration surfaced in the 1980's and centered on the exclusion of the northeastern portion of the Shark River Slough from the park when originally authorized. This major tributary was the central flow way of the original Everglades, the ''River of Grass'' immortalized by the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas. By drawing the park's boundary through the middle of Shark Slough, water that had once flowed freely in a slow, broad expanse, was now artificially funneled to the west. As a result, the eastern portion was kept artificially dry.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1970, Congress enacted the first in a series of congressional acts designed to address hydrological and ecological problems in Everglades National Park and mandated a minimum of 315,000 acre-feet of water to be delivered to the park from Water Conservation Area 3A. This minimum delivery schedule was subsequently modified by Congress in 1984 in response to excessive regulatory releases to the park following high rainfall. The experimental program for delivery of water authorized in the 1984 Act was thereafter extended by Congress in 1989 and 1992.
Nonetheless, the park continued to suffer due to interruptions in the natural flow of water into the park through Shark Slough. Addressing this threat to the park became a local and national cause. Governor Bob Martinez formed the East Everglades Task Force in 1988, which reported, ''Restoration and protection of Everglades National Park cannot be accomplished unless the East Everglades area is acquired and surface flows are restored through it.''
Congress responded to this dilemma with passage of the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989. Its purposes were to (1) increase the level of protection of the outstanding natural values of the park and to enhance and restore its ecological values, natural hydrological conditions and public enjoyment; and (2) assure the park is managed in order to maintain the natural abundance, diversity, and ecological integrity of native plants and animals as part of their ecosystem.
B. East Everglades Addition to Everglades National Park
This farsighted legislation reflected Congress' clear recognition of the serious problems of declining park resources and the need for quick action to correct the problems. The legislation expanded the boundaries of the park and authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire approximately 107,000 acres in the Expansion Area.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The acquisition of lands in the Expansion Area has been difficult due in large part to the fact that they consist of thousands of small parcels, the ownership of which has been often difficult to determine. These parcels are comprised of land which are regularly inundated with water and essentially unfit for development.
In addition, we have received varying levels of funding for this purpose which have been inadequate to allow the timely acquisition of the Area. However, in 1997, we began in earnest to complete these critical acquisitions as quickly as possible. With the help of Congress, we are nearing completion.
In FY 1998, we received $26 million toward the acquisition of the remaining acres, leaving lands estimated at $40 million to be acquired. In FY 1999, Congress provided the National Park Service $20 million toward that balance. Our FY 2000 budget request for the remaining $20 million will allow us to complete these acquisitions.
We have also recently received declaration of take authority which will substantially increase the rate with which we will be able to complete the acquisition of the Expansion Area. Because the land is unsuitable for development and there is no public opposition, this authority will allow us to settle more quickly with the landowners by avoiding many of the title issues that have previously delayed acquisitions. Under this authority, all property owners will, of course, receive just compensation for their property.
As of March 31, 1999, 70,881 acres (2,645 tracts) have been acquired in the Expansion Area, including 28,792 acquired and 42,089 donated by the State.
This leaves 36,343 acres (5,268 tracts) in private ownership yet to be acquired to complete the acquisition of the area. We have made remarkable progress toward completion in the past three years due to increased funding levels from Congress and the recent authorization of declaration of take authority. The latter is critical due to the difficulty in closing acquisitions on so many small parcels, the ownership of which is scattered. We are hopeful that the National Park Service will have completed its responsibilities in the acquisition of lands in the Expansion Area as early as 2001.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Accordingly, we are pleased to report to the Subcommittee that we are well on the way to meeting the intent of Congress to put emphasis on completion of land acquisitions to benefit the park.
C. Modified Water Deliveries Project
The Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989 also authorized changes in the Central and Southern Florida Project to provide for improved water deliveries to the park and authorized the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to mitigate any adverse impact from the project modifications on adjacent agricultural and residential areas, including the 8.5 Square Mile Area (SMA), the Rocky Glades Agricultural Area, and the Frog Pond.
In 1992, the Corps developed the Modified Water Deliveries Project, which included the mitigation plan for the 8.5 Square Mile Area. This project, funded by the Department of the Interior through appropriations to the National Park Service ''Construction'' appropriation, is designed to restore more natural hydropatterns in Water Conservation Area 3 (WCA-3) and Shark River Slough. The project is currently scheduled by the Corps for completion in 2003 if several difficult issues can be resolved. The project will involve the removal and modification of existing levees and canals, along with construction of new water control structures and pump stations. Some of the project features are underway. In December 1998 construction was completed on two new water control structures. S-355A and S-355B, that will help to reestablish flows from WCA-3B to Northeast Shark River Slough. The project also required the Miccosukee Indian community of Tigertail Camp to be raised to prevent flooding the community. This construction feature, which also included replacing substandard housing with new concrete homes, is complete.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCD. 8.5 Square Mile Area
A significant issue impacting the Modified Water Deliveries Project remains the long-standing controversy over the 8.5 SMA. The 8.5 SMA consists of about 5,600 acres immediately adjacent to the Expansion Area of Everglades National Park and west of the L-31N levee. It was developed in the 1960's and has about 1,200 residents and 365 structures. The issue about how to restore natural flows of water to the park through Shark Slough and the resultant impacts on the 8.5 SMA have for years presented a challenge.
Despite the authorization for mitigation for the area contained in the 1,989 Act, clear evidence of harm to Florida Bay, led Congress in 1994 to revisit the issue. Congress amended the 1989 Act to authorize the Department of the Interior to help acquire the 8.5 SMA, as well as Rocky Glades and the Frog Pond, as an alternative to mitigation.
In 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles established the East Everglades 8.5 SMA Study Committee to review alternatives to the Corps mitigation plan for the 8.5 SMA. In 1995, the committee recommended a solution in the form of a flow way/buffer project. This option would have required acquisition of up to half the acreage within the 8.5 SMA, above the amounts needed for the Corps' mitigation plan (which called for construction of a canal and levee). The committee's option would use the acquired lands as a water detention area to provide full (1 in 10 years) flood protection to the remainder of the area. It would also link hydrologically with the flow-way buffer being planned for the C-111 project to the south. In 1995 the Corps had modified its plan for the C-111 project, which included the acquisition of Rocky Glades and the Frog Pond, to create a flow-way/buffer to provide for hydrologic restoration of the headwaters of Taylor Slough. The SFWMD, as local sponsor for the C-111 project has since acquired the Frog Pond and a large portion of the Rocky Glades area.
In 1996, in response to the 1995 committee report, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) contracted a study and analysis of the flow-way/buffer and 5 other options for resolving the 8.5 SMA issue. These options included the Corps' original mitigation plan, the committee's modified flow way/buffer, and full acquisition. The SFWMD formed a review team to monitor the technical aspects of the study, consisting of affected agencies and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (Tribe). The analysis consisted of hydrologic evaluations, water quality analyses, and economic analyses.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In November, 1998, the SFWMD Governing Board unanimously voted to support full acquisition of private properties within the 8.5 SMA as a Locally Preferred Option (LPO) to the Corps' mitigation plan, subject to cost-share arrangements with the Federal Government and Miami-Dade County. A decision of the County Commission to provide partial funding has been deferred pending resolution of the lawsuit brought by the Tribe against the SFWMD alleging that the meetings of the review committee violated the State Sunshine Law.
In response to the SFWMD Governing Board's decision, the Corps and the Department of the Interior are examining the LPO pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The review being conducted by the Department to determine its participation in funding the LPO will examine various alternatives to the LPO.
The Tribe and residents of the 8.5 SMA have raised a number of issues regarding acquisition of the area. The first issue is whether the acquisition of the 8.5 SMA will needlessly delay implementation of the Modified Water Deliveries Project. Those who oppose the LPO contend that it is not needed for restoration and that full acquisition will take an inordinate amount of time, particularly given the fact that many residents oppose the buy-out.
The restoration benefits to be derived from the various alternatives will be part of the on-going NEPA analysis. The ability to acquire such lands as are needed will involve issues yet to be determined, including the willingness of residents to sell and number of parcels to be acquired.
The second issue is that residents of the 8.5 SMA have alleged that they were denied due process as the SFWMD reviewed the alternatives and decided to support full acquisition as the LPO. While it would be inappropriate to discuss the issue that is the subject of litigation between the Miccosukee Tribe and the SFWMD, the Department of the Interior fully agrees with the Tribe that these decisions must provide due process to the fullest extent and will afford ample opportunity for public review and comment during our NEPA process.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me state categorically that we do not include a full acquisition alternative in our NEPA analysis lightly. We believe that any solution must be a sustainable solution for all the people of south Florida and meet the goals of the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989, as amended.
We are implementing the Modified Water Deliveries Project to meet the clear intent of Congress to restore the Shark Slough. We want a solution that will not compromise those efforts. The history of the park includes cases where structures built for park needs were eventually changed to operate for greater flood protection and water supply benefits to the detriment of the Park. Under the Corps mitigation plan, the residents will continue to live with flooded streets and yards, threatening to create similar conflicts between the residents of the 8.5 SMA and the Park. We want to avoid that. We want to find a sustainable solution.
II. Impact of recent wet years on the Water Conservation Areas (WCA)
Mr. Chairman, related to the 8.5 SMA is the issue of impacts in 1998 to the WCAs, particularly those interests to the Tribe from the extraordinary high levels of water in the system in 1998. A significant part of the problem was the inability of the Corps to move water off the Tribal lands and toward the 8.5 SMA without impacting the 8.5 SMA residents. These issues have come together in striking outline over the past 4-5 years. These have been record rainfall years. And they have severely strained the water management system. Most importantly, they have underlined the limited options the current system provides to address flood control needs for an expanding population while at the same time, trying to limit negative impacts on the Everglades.
The 1997 wet season (June-October) was higher than average leaving the system full when the dry season began. These high levels were then followed by a dry season (November to May) that was 50 percent wetter than normal due to the influence of El Niño. Thus, not only did the high levels not dry down, they actually increased, threatening the entire system. On top of this, the 1998 wet season loomed.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At the north end of the system high water in the Kissimmee drainage was straining the capacity of Lake Okeechobee. With no additional storage capacity, water managers were forced to release sufficient amounts of water and sediment into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. These releases were unrelated to the plight of the sparrow. These releases reinforced need for storage in the north as recommended by the Restudy.
Further down the system, the configuration of water deliveries to Everglades National Park is currently constrained by the system which funnels most water to the park into western Shark Slough. This area is also critical nesting habitat for the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. In order to provide for a minimum 45-day nesting period, the flow gates (S-12 structures) to the west were at first operated for minimal discharges, then closed in the spring of 1998. The agencies found ways to route water to the east and south in a manner close to being equal to the S-12 expected flows. Levels in the Water Conservation Areas were high due to high rainfall and discharges from the upper system. This circumstance would not have been different if all the S-12s were fully open.
The emergency action, along with a period of dry weather, was successful in limiting the disturbance to nesting in the western population of the sparrow. There was an approximately 75 percent success rate compared to the previous year. Results would have been much lower without the emergency actions.
Expressing concern over flooding in the conservation areas, some have misinterpreted the flooding as caused solely by the emergency sparrow actions. As a matter of fact, similarly heavy rainfall in 1994-95, when park flood gates were fully open, produced much higher levels in the conservation areas. And during the emergency actions of 1998, amounts of water generally equivalent to the expected flows of the western gates, was moved through other structures to the east. Simply put, the closing of the western S-12 gates was not the principal cause of high water in the conservation areas, but resulted from rainfall and inflows from the north.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The conservation areas are currently contoured with levees to hold and store water. A principal goal of restoration will be to ultimately decompartmentalize these areas to the extent possible. This, together with creating additional water storage capacity, is the best way of avoiding similar high-water conditions.
Finally, with respect to the emergency actions taken in 1998, some have criticized the validity of the science surrounding the sparrow. In response, the interagency State, Federal and Tribal South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group convened a peer review workshop and panel. The panel, consisting of the nation's top experts nominated by the American Ornithological Union, have recently released their draft report. The draft report supports the scientific credibility of the current sparrow research being relied upon by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the need for appropriate management actions.
The report recommends similar short-term actions to hold water in Conservation Area 3-A during high-water events, pending completion of the Modified Water Deliveries project. The report further points out the lack of reliable data showing a decline of tree islands in 3-A over the last decade and cites studies showing that increased tree mortality has not occurred over that time period.
All the above characterize the difficulties of preserving a wetland national park in the midst of growing pressures and a fundamentally changed natural system. We need to increasingly look toward the larger system for solutions to problems in its constituent parts.
We are concerned about impacts throughout the system, especially including impacts to Miccosukee Tribal lands in WCA 3-A. We take our trust responsibilities to the Tribe very seriously. However, we note that the perpetual Lease and Settlement Agreement the Tribe holds in WCA 3-A subjects the Tribe's rights in the Leased Area (3-A) to the Corps' authority to raise and lower water levels. We are committed to work with the Tribe to resolve these issues.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In all of this, we have a true and sincere concern for the Tribe and its interests. Our focus has necessarily and, we believe, appropriately been placed on looking after the interests of the entire South Florida Ecosystem, which is inextricably linked to those of the Tribes, the State and all stakeholders in the ecosystem.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these and other issues related to the restoration of the Everglades. We appreciate the continued support of this Subcommittee on behalf of the National Park System, including one of its most fragile and threatened units, Everglades National Park.
I will be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. HANSEN. Superintendent Ring, do you have an opening statement or anything that you would like to add to what was just stated?
Mr. RING. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to be here providing what support I can to Mr. Leary as the Department's witness, and I will be pleased to assist with any questions and answers.
Mr. HANSEN. Questions for the panel. The gentleman from Puerto Rico, Mr. Romero-Barceló.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Leary, the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, is it prone to flooding?
Mr. LEARY. Yes, sir, it is. The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is an area composed of about 5,600 acres. We have a chart that I would like to put up that makes it a little bit easier for you to see this. I believe we made copies of this available to the Committee.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Which chart would that be?
[The information follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 1 TO 2 HERE
Mr. LEARY. Members of the Subcommittee, this chart, of which I hope you each have a copy, is a chart which represents the Modified Water Deliveries Project. The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is the area in orange on the map. It is roughly 5,600 acres. It is west of the levee which, for the most part, runs north and south and separates the natural system from the built environment. It is on the natural system side of that levee. It is a wetland, and so it suffers seasonal wet periods as one would expect.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Would the Corps of Engineers 1992 flood mitigation plan prevent the flooding of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area?
Mr. LEARY. No, sir, it wouldn't. The project that the Corps of Engineers designed does not provide full flood protection to the residents of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. It is designed to mitigate any additional harm that might be imposed on the residents from operation of the modified water delivery schedule. The area is frequently inundated with water. It would receive no additional water stacked on top of that from the operation of the modified water delivery project. But the Corps plan does not provide full flood protection to the residents.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. If the 1989 Everglades Protection Act authorized the flood mitigation measures to protect the developed portion of the 8-1/2 square miles from the adverse effects arising from the restored water flows to the Park through the northeast Shark Slough, why has the Department decided not to provide these flood mitigation features?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. For a variety of reasons. First of all, as I discussed, after the project was designed, the Governor appointed this committee, which came up with a new consensus approach to deal with the area.
In addition to that, in 1994, Congress suggested to us that perhaps the better solution was to buy the area. Our concern with the original Corps plan was, and remains, that it simply will not work to the best benefit of Everglades National Park.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Why will it not work to the best interest? What will it do that would be adverse to the best interest of the Park?
Mr. LEARY. Mr. Chairman, with your indulgence, it might be easiest for me to answer this question if I could go up to the chart.
Mr. HANSEN. Speak up, if you would, please. Thank you.
Mr. LEARY. Understand, Mr. Chairman, I am not an engineer, but I am going to attempt to answer that question as I understand it. This is the Modified Water Deliveries Project. It consists of several component parts.
This is Water Conservation Area 3A and Water Conservation area 3B here. These levees 67A and C separate these two water conservation areas. Part of the design of the project would be to put gates in here that would allow water to flow from Water Conservation Area 3A to Water Conservation Area 3B.
The whole idea of the Modified Water Deliveries Project is to restore the natural flow through Shark Slough, which roughly runs southwesterly, into Everglades National Park. So you would open the 67A and C levies. You would also make changes to Tamiama Trail to allow the water to flow down and then flow into the Park. Those are the principal features of the project.
The original Corps design for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area was to put a levee and a seepage canal here essentially around the edge of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area because water levels would be higher west of the area in the Park than in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. The hydrology works such that, when those conditions exist, water seeps under the levee and floods the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. And so the seepage canal was designed to collect that water and move it back into the system.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are a couple of ways of doing that. One was to move the water in the L-31 canal, perhaps in the dry season, south down toward Taylor Slough and the Bay. The other was, in wet seasons, when there is a lot of water, to move the water north along the canal and dump it back into the Park up here at Tamiama Trail.
There are several problems with both of those scenarios. In the first place, the Corps plan is designed to move into Northeast Shark Slough for the purpose of restoring the Park; much of the water will seep out of the park and will have to be collected and recycled.
Another is that putting water into the L-31 canal, whether it is moving south or north, raises the level of water in that canal, which can have impacts elsewhere in the system. For example, if the water is too high moving north, it can result in potential damage to the people who live on the east side of the canal since the water level east of the canal would be lower and the water would seep out and impact them.
The same is true with water levels to the south. The water levels moving to the south, if too high, can create potential damage to agriculture and other residents in this southern area east of the canal.
Another problem with the plan is that it moves water northward, when the system is designed to operate to move water from the north through the system.
This has become increasingly more important as our understanding of the system has evolved in the last few years.
The Subcommittee may recall that, in the 1996 Water Resources Development Act, Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to conduct a comprehensive review of the entire system and issue its report to Congress by July of this year. It is known as the Restudy. In the process of developing the Restudy over the last couple of years, we have all learned a great deal more about how this system functions.
The Modified Water Deliveries Project was originally designed to be a stand-alone project for a very important part of the system. This is pretty much the heart of the system. But in the Restudy we have looked at the entire system. We have learned a lot in those intervening years about what restoration means. We have learned a lot about what the restoration goals should be. And the restoration goals have changed such that we expect even more water now to be moving down into this part of the system than was contemplated in 1992 more water than the Corps plan was originally designed to handle.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, now we anticipate that we are going to be moving more water down from the north part of the system pursuant to the Restudy. This will allow more water to flow into Everglades National Park to attempt to restore it closer to what the natural system model tells us historical water levels should be.
So all of these factors make the original Corps design, in our judgment, inadequate; and so we have engaged with our partners in a review of alternatives.
As I indicated, in 1996, there was a unanimous opinion that the best approach was a flow way buffer essentially halfway across the 8.5 Square Mile Area. In 1998, the South Florida Water Management District suggested that the best approach was full acquisition. We are analyzing all of the alternatives in light of the additional information we have gained under the Restudy authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 1996.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you. My time is up.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Nevada.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am interested in this issue but don't understand it completely. But, Mr. Leary, please help me understand your definition of full flood protection.
Mr. LEARY. Much like the situation on the east of the L-31 levee, full flood protection would not only prevent additional waters from going into the area, either through seepage or otherwise, but help remove water in the area such that the area stays as dry as possible.
Mr. GIBBONS. And you don't believe that full flood protection can be achieved with a levee; is that what you are telling us here today?
Mr. LEARY. The original Corps plan would not provide full flood protection. Could a system be designed that would? Yes.
Mr. GIBBONS. Have you undertaken a study of that design?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. The Park Service has not, no. The alternatives that have been studied have included efforts to provide full flood protection to all or a portion of the area.
One approach that was studied was to put a wall essentially down into the ground that would attempt to block the seepage from occurring, and I think most parties determined that that was not a feasible approach. In fact, that approach was suggested in 1992 down in the Frog Pond area.
The pink area on the map is the Frog Pond area. This curtain wall approach was suggested and rejected by the Corps of Engineers. I believe Colonel Terry Rice, one of your witnesses today, was district engineer at the time, as I understand it, the flow way buffer concept was agreed upon by Governor Chiles' committee in 1995 and 1996 might provide full flood protection to the eastern portion of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Mr. GIBBONS. How much is the eastern portion in terms of area?
Mr. LEARY. I don't know the exact acreage of that proposal?
Mr. RING. Sir, the Governor's committee report that examined that alternative recommended a conceptual plan which really didn't pin down the amount of land required for the flow way buffer and the amount that would ultimately be provided flood protection. I believe the South Florida Water Management Districts' engineers report did, and the alternative I think was roughly half. Half of the 8-1/2 Square Mile area would be acquired for the flow way buffer, and roughly half would be provided protection.
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, let me ask this question. Obviously, flood protection is something that is normally overseen, normally discussed and engineered through the Corps of Engineers, rather than the Department of Interior or the Park Service. How come you guys have ended up getting involved in the design plan of the flood program here?
Mr. LEARY. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the design of the project.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The way Congress set this up in 1989 is that the project is funded through the budget of the National Park Service. I believe the rationale for that was that this project was being designed, and Congress directed that it be designed, to benefit Everglades National Park. Because of that, of course, Everglades National Park is very interested in knowing whether the project that the Corps implements
Mr. GIBBONS. Do you have veto authority over what the Corps of Engineers proposes?
Mr. LEARY. No, sir. The only issue there would be a question of funding by Congress of the project.
Mr. GIBBONS. Has the Interior Department provided funds to acquire either the Rocky Glades or the Frog Pond area?
Mr. LEARY. No, sir. To date, no. Those have been acquired by the South Florida Water Management District.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Chairman, my time is, I can see, up. I will yield to others who may have questions.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentlelady from the Virgin Islands.
Mrs. CHRISTIANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just some clarification on some of the issues.
The Frog Pond alternative, would that also require land acquisition or relocation of the Tribe, the one that you last described?
Mr. LEARY. The Frog Pond is part of a different project. The Frog Pond is part of the C-111 project, which is south of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Mrs. CHRISTIANSEN. It wasn't an alternative way of addressing the same situation, the same problem?
Mr. LEARY. The C-111 project is more designed to help restore natural flows through another Slough called Taylor Slough, which is to the south. The Frog Pond area essentially cuts in half, strides across the Taylor Slough which provides waters at the south end of Florida into the south end of the Park and Florida Bay.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHRISTIANSEN. I haveI went to some of the hearings with the Miccosukee Tribe last year, and it is a bit disturbing to me to hear that we are back again talking about relocating members of the Tribe. What I would like to know is, isn't there any alternative plans that could be developed that would accommodate the Miccosukee Tribe and not have them have to relocate from this area? Have all of the possible ways of restoring the water to the Everglades been evaluated?
Mr. LEARY. The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area does not directly impact the Miccosukee Tribe. Let me show you on the map. This is the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. The Miccosukee Tribe reservationreserved area is over here. The Tribe can tell you far better than me, but my understanding of the concerns of the Miccosukee Tribe are largely this: The Miccosukee Tribe is interested in getting this water to flow, as the Modified Water Deliveries Project is designed, eastward in this direction and away from their lands and then southward into Shark Slough.
The Tribe is concerned that, until water can move eastward, water will stack north of them and potentially damage their properties here. So they are eager to see the water move over toward Shark Slough. We are eager for the water to move over here as well because, again, we want to restore flows through Shark Slough.
What the Tribe is suggesting, I believe, is that we need to deal with the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area the quickest way possible in order to move the water so it does not impact their lands.
Mrs. CHRISTIANSEN. Well, I will reserve further questions for the Tribe when they come to the panel.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
The gentleman from New Mexico, Mr. Udall.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Could you just further explain the issue there with thethat you were just explaining with Representative Christiansen on the 8-1/2 mile area? That is an areawhat is the status of that and how does that relate to their claim and to the fact that they don't want the water on their land?
I understand about the water moving out on theyou have the water moving. I assume that is set up so you want water moving more to the east
Mr. LEARY. That is correct.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. [continuing] and around their property. And in order to do that you have tois it purchase this 8-1/2 mile area or what?
Mr. LEARY. That is the penultimate issue. The situation we find ourselves in is we all want to move the water over to the east. The issue is, can we do it without doing harm to the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area? So the decision is how to address that area.
This area to the immediate west of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area here we have a similar problem. This is the Park Expansion Area we are engaged in acquiring so that we can move water through it. But, in addition to that, we have to deal with the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area one way or the other in order to move the water.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Mr. Leary, it is your recommendation or the Park Service's recommendation that there be a purchase of the 8-1/2 mile area?
Mr. LEARY. We have looked at that alternative. The Park Service has indicated that it believes that it is the best alternative to provide protection to the Park. But that is the subject of our NEPA analysis before we make a final determination.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Okay. Thank you.
Mr. LEARY. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Mr. LEARY. I wanted to correct one answer that I gave to Mr. Gibbons. The Department of Interior has acquired some of the property in the Rocky Glades that are within the boundaries of Everglades National Park.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Is it the opinion of the Park Service that the flow that is planned under the current system will restore the ecosystem of the Everglades? And how quickly will it do that?
Mr. LEARY. I am sorry. Are you talking about the original Corps plan?
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. No, the Corps plan we are functioning under right now.
Mr. LEARY. We believe that the Restudy plan the Corps is developing and will be submitting to Congress in July, when implemented with the Modified Water Deliveries Project and with the C-111 Project, will meet, or provides us with the means to meet, our overall restoration goals for the ecosystem.
Mr. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Udall.
I ask unanimous consent that the letter from Lincoln Diaz-Balart be included in the record.
Hearing no objection, so ordered.
[The information follows:]
LETTER TO MR. HANSEN FROM HON. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I commend the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands for reviewing the delays in the implementation of the 1989 Act providing for Modified Water Delivery to the Everglades. It is essential that all agencies involved proceed expeditiously to implement the program contemplated by the 1989 Act, so that the proper flow of water to the south can be restored, the damage to the State and Tribal lands to the north from flooding can be reduced, and the constitutional property rights of adjoining homeowners are protected.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Congressman Dante Fascell's bipartisan 1989 Act is sound. It represents a Congressional commitment to the affected parties that should be honored. The Act, including the protection of the 8.5 square mile area, was based on the recommendations of two Governor's Commissions (both a Republican and a Democrat Governor). Since passage of the Act and the 1994 Amendment, another Governor's Commission (a Democrat Governor) has again recommended that the 8.5 square mile area be protected. Further delay, including delay caused by the ill-founded effort to condemn the homes of the residents of the 8.5 square mile area, are bad both for the environment and for the affected parties. As part of the 8.5 square mile area falls within the district I represent, I respectfully request that the Subcommittee disavow any agency efforts to condemn homes in the 8.5 square mile area.
The environment to the north is suffering because water flow is blocked, flooding the Florida-owned and Miccosukee Tribe-owned portions of the historic Everglades. Natural resources of the State and the Tribe are being lost. Members of the Tribe and citizens of Florida have a right to expect that agencies will carry out the 1989 Act without further delay.
Homeowners in the area that were promised protection are instead being threatened with condemnation. Their property is under siege even though the 1989 Act directed the Army Corps of Engineers to protect this area and the Report of the 1994 Amendment specifically disavowed condemnation.
I respectfully urge the Subcommittee to use its good offices to expedite the Modified Water Delivery Project, including the protection project for the 8.5 square mile area. Our commitment to the Everglades environment, to the Miccosukee Tribe, and to our system of constitutional property rights, requires nothing less.
Mr. HANSEN. Gentlemen, I want to ask both of you a few questions. I appreciate it; and, in the essence of time, I ask that you be as brief as you possibly could.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Leary, the 1994 expansion amendment made it clear that not more than 25 percent of the funding to acquire the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area can be provided by the Federal Government. Where does the Interior Department get the additional authority to chip in additional an 25 percent, as stated by Secretary Babbitt?
Mr. LEARY. What Secretary Babbitt was discussing in his letter was a response to the question, if the South Florida Water Management District were to adopt a locally preferred option, would we cost share on that project. Secretary Babbitt was saying to the South Florida Water Management District that, consistent with the overall 50/50 match requirement for the entire ecosystem restoration effort which Congress had enacted in 1996, we would look at this as part of the overall effort. The funds we have been provided from the Congress in the intervening years have provided us with the authority to acquire lands for ecosystem restoration based on a 50/50 cost share.
Mr. HANSEN. In other words, you are referring to the 1996 farm bill; is that right?
Mr. LEARY. The 1996 farm bill is one of them. But our appropriations for the last 2 years from the Land and Water Conservation Funds have provided the same cost share requirement.
Mr. HANSEN. Do you believe the farm bill supersedes the Act of 1994?
Mr. LEARY. I am not suggesting that, sir. I believe that we would need to seek and obtain a clarification from Congress as to whether the 1994 restriction was or was not limited to the funds that were being discussed in that Act.
Mr. HANSEN. But, as you know, you cannot authorize under an appropriation bill; and whether or not it was appropriated as you just stated, it still has to be authorized.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. We would be seeking guidance.
Mr. HANSEN. I can't figure out where the authorization is, Mr. Leary.
Mr. LEARY. We would be seeking guidance from Congress in that regard.
Mr. HANSEN. Do you have a solicitor's opinion on that?
Mr. LEARY. I do not, sir. I will be happy to request one if you would like.
Mr. HANSEN. Do you believe the 1996 farm bill creates any condemnation authority?
Mr. LEARY. I don't believe we have examined that question.
Mr. HANSEN. Let me ask this. Do you feel an appropriation will create an imminent domain authority?
Mr. LEARY. Likewise, sir, I don't know the answer to that question.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Leary, has the Interior Department provided any funds for the acquisition of the Rocky Glades area or the Frog Pond?
Mr. LEARY. The Department of the Interior hasyes. We have about $14 million available for contribution to those areas. We entered into an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District for those funds. The South Florida Water Management District has not requested those funds.
Mr. HANSEN. So you really haven't expended any funds yet.
Mr. LEARY. Not for those two projects, no, sir, other than the acquisitions within the Park in the Rocky Glades area.
Mr. HANSEN. Why?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. Because we have been in disagreement with the South Florida Water Management District over the terms that were imposed upon us by Congress.
In authorizing those funds, Congress stated that the lands acquired with those funds were to be managed in perpetuity for the benefit of Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and the South Florida Water Management District, and we have to date been unable to agree on the means by which the Department of the Interior and Everglades National Park can assure the Congress that the directive will be met.
Mr. HANSEN. In 1992, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a general design memorandum with the completed EIS which essentially gave the green light to start construction of the flood protection to the 8-1/2. At that point, a full 2 years from the 1994 amendment, why didn't the Interior fund the Corps to start construction?
Mr. LEARY. I need to look at the 1992 appropriations figures, but we did request over the years and received funding for construction of those features as requested by the Corps of Engineers. We have met those requests. We have constructed, under the Modified Water Deliveries Project, a number of the features of that project but not the feature involving the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Mr. HANSEN. September 23rd, Assistant Secretary Berry wrote to Congress asking for a declaration of taking authority. What is the status of that request?
Mr. LEARY. That request has been approved by the committees, and we are undertaking to implement that authority. We believe that that authority will enable us to speed up the completion of the acquisition of the Park expansion area by a number of years, and we are very grateful to have received that authorization.
Mr. HANSEN. I am always curious, as I try to think back on this, why this Committee wasn't asked, especially since we are referenced in the first page of that.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. Mr. Chairman, the reason that this Committee did not receive that request is because the Park Service has been operating for over 21 years on what we understand is the policy of this Committee that we do not need to request specific authority from this Committee, but that we provide the Committee with quarterly reports. That policy is expressed in a letter we received over 22 years ago from this Committee. If the Committee, under your leadership, Mr. Chairman, has changed that policy, we were unaware of it, and we apologize.
Mr. HANSEN. Let me ask this, if I may. In your testimony, you state that there is clear evidence of the harm to Florida Bay if the Department of Interior does not acquire the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. Would you mind quickly telling us what that clear evidence is?
Mr. LEARY. The clear evidence that I was talking about, sir, was evidence that the State and the Federal Government determined back in 1993 that Florida Bay was continuing to experience great harm, and that caused the State and the Department of the Interior to come to Congress and ask for greater authority to move forward in ways that would be protective of the Bay.
Mr. HANSEN. Also in your testimony, you seem to criticize the Chiles Commission report. Did the Dade County Commission endorse it and the south Florida water folks endorse that? What was the conflict between you folks?
Mr. LEARY. Sir, you misunderstood me. I was not at all criticizing the Chiles Committee report. Indeed, what I was suggesting was that we had unanimity of the parties in interest as a result of that report and were prepared to move forward on the flow way buffer. But the district engineer at the time, Terry Rice, refused to sign the agreement, and so the agreement fell apart.
Mr. HANSEN. The 8-1/2 bothers me. Do we have any willing sellers in that area?
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. The South Florida Water Management District believes that there are many willing sellers in the area.
Mr. HANSEN. How many folks have you got in that area?
Mr. LEARY. I believe there are about 1,200 residents is what I understand, about 365 structures.
Mr. HANSEN. Go back to your term. What percent would be willing to sell their property of that? Have you got any wild guess on that at all, Mr. Leary?
Mr. LEARY. I do not. I have been told anecdotally from the South Florida Water Management District that the number of willing sellers is in the 300-plus range, but I do not know of my own knowledge. We certainly have taken no poll out there.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. I appreciate your comments.
The gentleman from Puerto Rico.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I wouldMr. Leary, the 1992 flood mitigation proposal, is it still carrying the hydrological conditions we need? And, also, does it leave intact all of the residences and the property in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area?
Mr. LEARY. The original Corps project would require the acquisition of some lands necessary for construction of the levee and the seepage canal, but it would not require, obviously, as much acquisition as would the other alternatives.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. And then what would be the impact on that land of the Governor Chiles' study committee?
Mr. LEARY. That proposal would impact roughly half of the area. As Mr. Ring suggested, it was more of a conceptual plan, as opposed to an exact design. But, as we understood it, it would require the acquisition of roughly the western half of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Finally, Mr. Leary, your critics say thatthe critics of the Department of Interior decision say that the reason that they want to acquire thethe Park Service wants to acquire the 8-1/2 is to establish a buffer, which will be against existing law, to acquire land for a buffer. How would you respond to that criticism?
Mr. LEARY. Well, I believe what they are referring to is report language in the 1994 Act that talked about how this authority is not to create a Federal buffer. And no one is suggesting the creation of a Federal buffer. If the Federal Government did indeed hypothetically down the road decide this was the approach to take, it would provide grant funds to the South Florida Water Management District, and the South Florida Water Management District would buy these properties.
And you understand that part of the rationale here and justification for interest in the full acquisition is not just limited to the issue of the flow of water. That is but one part of the issue of restoration. The rest is this. One of the things that the Everglades ecosystem lacks is adequate short period wetlands that help serve as an ecological buffer between the built environment and the Everglades. And that is what the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is, short-term wetlands.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Thank you, Mr. Leary.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I finally would like to ask unanimous consent to submit a copy of a letter signed by Senators Graham and Mack to the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Alex Penelas, dated February 24, 1999, supporting the acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information follows:]
LETTER TO THE HON. ALEX PENELAS, MAYOR, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA FROM HON. BOB GRAHAM AND HON. CONNIE MACK
Dear Mayor Penelas:
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We want to share our views with you as deliberations continue on the very difficult issues surrounding the modified water delivery project and its impact on the 8.5 Square Mile Area. A decision to acquire this area from willing sellers marks an important step in the process of rehydrating Everglades National Park and restoring Florida Bay.
This is a very difficult and emotional issue, but this is a situation that will continue to linger until the entire area is acquired or provided with flood protection. Full acquisition is not only the best alternative for the Everglades; it is also the best alternative for all Miami-Dade County taxpayers.
For these reasons, we support the decision made last year by the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District to fully acquire the 8.5 Square Mile Area and urge you to ratify the decision when it comes before the Miami-Dade Commission. Finally, we pledge our strong commitment to ensure that the Federal Government is an active financial partner with the South Florida Water Management District and Miami-Dade County in order to ensure that the residents of the 8.5 Square Mile Area are fairly, and fully, compensated.
Mr. HANSEN. Let me go back to some of these things we are talking about.
I still can't quite fathom this 8-1/2. Go back to the law; and, as the gentleman from Puerto Rico just stated, the Committee knows this Act does not authorize the use of Federal imminent domain authority, nor does it create a Federal buffer zone outside the Park.
Now, I guess you could give it over to the water district, but then, if I understand this right, being the past speaker of my State, and I don't know if these laws are the same. I have no way of knowing. Then they would have to have this Florida State legislature give them the right of imminent domain.
And if they can't do that, you guys are dead in the water. You don't have any authority at all to take this 8-1/2. If you have got a willing seller, yeah, but my staff tells me here that is the infinitesimal amount and that some of those folks, when they were interviewed, felt coerced that they were going to get imminent domain. I don't know if that is true or not, but I know that if people think they are going to lose something, they probably would say that.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So here we have got this agriculture area. I still don't understand the hydrology or the science behind why that is necessary. Maybe that is just my limited knowledge of this, but I don't think you have any right at all to take that 8-1/2 square miles.
Mr. LEARY. Mr. Chairman, we haven't come to the question of the need for imminent domain authority in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area because, again, the issue remains unsettled as to what project will ultimately be implemented. As Mr. Romero-Barceló suggested, there are a number of people who support full acquisition of the area. Members of the Florida delegation, including Senators Graham and Mack, support full acquisition. There are a number of people who do not, but the point is that it is speculative at this point to determine the need for imminent domain authority in the area.
Certainly, there are a number of entities which might have imminent domain authority or seek it if it is needed. That would include the Department of the Interior. It would also include the South Florida water management district, the State of Florida, Dade County, and the Corps of Engineers; any number of entities.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Leary, regardless, if there are a number of people who support it isn't the issue, as I see it; and also as I look it, it is not the issue of whether or not the Department of Interior or others eventually would have imminent domain when they have a great big roadblock called Federal law standing in front of them.
Someone either has to change the law, or you have got to get it from another source; and until you can get it, you have got to get rid of this 1994 Act because we look atthe 1996 Farm Act doesn't even come close to helping you out in any of those areas. So you have got a heck of a roadblock staring you in the face, in my mind, if that is what you want to do and your scientists feel that.
I don't have a dog in this fight, but still, on the other hand, this has got so many problems hanging on it. I would be very concerned if I was in the shoes of either you or Mr. Ring on how you really want to go about doing this. I think you're setting yourself up for all kinds of litigation. We will probably all be pushing up daisies by the time this thing is all resolved.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Ring, the clear intent of the Park Expansion Act of 1989 was to acquire this eastern expansion area by 1994. What has taken so long for the Park Service to acquire these lands, the eastern expansion area?
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Mr. Chairman, can I contribute something to the gentleman? I don't think the Department of Interior has any authority at all over the Park Service to acquire any lands. They can only contribute, and it is Florida South Water Management that can do the acquisition, and I think the only thing appropriate to contributeI think that
Mr. HANSEN. I appreciate the comments.
Mr. LEARY. Mr. Chairman, might I respond to that question?
Mr. HANSEN. Sure, Mr. Leary.
Mr. LEARY. As I understand the question, you are talking about the park expansion, the additional areas to the park itself. Congress did indeed authorize us to acquire those acres. We received about 40,000 acres from the State of Florida and have been engaged in acquiring those lands since, with funds which have been made available to us by Congress for those acquisitions.
What we have encountered is a number of difficulties in acquiring those properties from this simple fact: This is property that is largely under water most of the time. This is the classic example of swamplands that people bought decades ago. It is land that is largely undevelopable, but is in small tracts, Mr. Chairman. Many of these parcels are quite small.
It takes just as much work to acquire the small tracts as it does large ones. It is difficult to get clear title on some of these properties because they have such little value that owners have even not gone through probate on some of these properties. It is an extremely difficult process.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have acquired those that are the easiest to acquire, and now we have run into the slow difficulty of going through individual condemnation actions, trying to clear title. That is why we sought the declaration of take authority, and that is why we believe, with it, we can clear this quickly.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Ring, essentially the park was expanded in 1989 for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem and the natural flow of water. Part of this entailed the acquisition of some property owned by the Hernandez family, the Carter family and the Hect family. Are Park Service personnel living in the homes that are acquired on this property?
Mr. RING. There are Park Service rangers living in some of the homes, of the few homes that were acquired inside that area of the east Everglades expansion area.
Mr. HANSEN. How long is that going to go on?
Mr. RING. That was initiated as an interim measure pending the completion of land acquisition and the revision of the park's general management plan to determine how we will be managing the area. It creates a presence out there while the area has been partially acquired, not completely acquired, and is not under our management and control, in order to prevent things like dumping.
There was an automatic weapons shooting gallery out there, quite a number of problems in the area that we were trying to stop, so we are trying to create a presence to provide protection to the Federal properties pending the completion of acquisition and the completion of our management plan.
Mr. HANSEN. Okay. You mention ''interim.'' So this was essential for the natural restoration of the Everglades. Employees are living there. You fully intend they will be gone, you will destroy these homes, all that type of thing; is that right?
Mr. RING. We are in an advanced stage now of land acquisition, we have about 70,000 acres acquired. Assuming the approval of the fiscal 2000 budget request, we will have the funds to complete the acquisition. This fall, we will be starting the planning process to amend the park's general management plan, and we will be examining with the public and all of our partners what are the appropriate actions and activities and facilities and management presence that we need out there.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The basis for any continued presence on the part of any of our rangers out there in homes will be discussed and determined as a result of that planning. It will not be continued as a result of the interim decisions we make.
Mr. HANSEN. You made a statement describing, quote, a sustainable solution or sustainable approach to the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. Give me your definition of sustainable. What do you mean by that?
Mr. RING. Sir, Mr. Chairman, a number of the agencies, ourselves included, have been trying to address the issue of sustainability in south Florida as part of an overall ecosystem approach towards restoration. Sustainability means a decision that will not create problems elsewhere. It will fit into a context of a comprehensive solution and it will last.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Ring, do you believe that there are any people down there being threatened or coerced or intimidated by the water management district into selling any of their property?
Mr. RING. I have absolutely no knowledge of that, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. Going back to the gentleman from Puerto Rico, do you believe the acquisition of the 8-1/2 would create a buffer zone for the park?
Mr. RING. Mr. Chairman, I am sorry?
Mr. HANSEN. Do you believe that the acquisition of the 8-1/2 would create a buffer zone for the park?
Mr. RING. I believe that, and I have indicated that, the proposal of the water management district adopted and recommended to the Corps would indeed solve the water management issues associated with the completion of the Modified Water Delivery Project in that area in a sustainable manner. And, I believe it would also add critical short hydroperiod wetlands to the overall ecosystem, and that would provide significant ecological benefits.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Thank you. Let me ask you one more.
There are other properties acquired as directed by the 1994 amendments for Everglades restoration, particularly in the area known as the Frog Pond, when in private hands which is used extensively for agriculture. Since the Park Service was in 1994 arguing that these lands were also essential for the restoration, what is the current use of these lands?
Mr. RING. Mr. Chairman, my understanding is that the South Florida Water Management District acquired the Frog Pond as a result of trying to acquire the land necessary for the C-111 project of the Corps of Engineers. They tried to acquire the western three sections of the Frog Pond and, in negotiations with the owner, ultimately acquired the entire area.
They leased back the land for seasonal agriculture on a year-to-year basis for two reasons, as I understand it, but I would urge you to contact the South Florida Water Management District directly on this.
One was to soften the impact on the agricultural economy in south Dade, and the other was to prevent the intrusion of invasive exotics which would likely come into that land if it were left fallow pending the completion of the actual project features associated with the C-111 project that were scheduled to occur over a 5-to-7-year period.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Ring.
Member of the Committees, Mr. Sherwood, you weren't here earlier. Do you have any questions?
Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I am asking this a little tentatively, coming in as late as I have, and I have been to the Glades and spent time in that area, and I think I understand the theory ofthat it is a sheet water flow going south out of the big lake all the way to the bottom of the peninsula, and that that has been interrupted and that that is the problem.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But what I don't understand about this 8-1/2 acres of land, I have information that that is at a higher elevation, and it doesn't participate in the sheet water flow. So why is that important that you buy that 8-1/2 acres of ground?
Mr. LEARY. For a couple of reasons, the justification would go as follows. For one thing, the Shark Slough area immediately to the west of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, which is in orange on the map there, is the lowest portion of Shark Slough. The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is at the edge, and the elevation does indeed go up.
We are not talking about severe elevation here. It is
Mr. SHERWOOD. I understand.
Mr. LEARY. But the western portions of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area are indeed as low as the areas immediately to the west in the Park expansion area. The area becomes flooded, as water levels increase, whether it is during heavy rainfall events or otherwise. In Florida there are two seasons, a wet and a dry season. During very high water rain events, that level of water can cause flooding throughout the entire 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Thebut the other rationale for acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is the one that Superintendent Ring just gave, which is that the Everglades does notsuffers from a lack of short season hydroperiod wetlands, and that is an ecological benefit that this area could provide to the Everglades system.
Mr. SHERWOOD. I didn't understand that.
Mr. RING. Sir, in 1993 we gathered as many scientists as we had available to try and critique the problems of the Everglades' ecosystem. They provided a report which provided the basis for the Corps proceeding into their overall hydrologic restoration effort. They determined that the fundamental characteristics of the predrainage system that needed to be restored were a hydrologic regime which featured dynamic and sheet flow, and large spatial scale.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fifty percent of the original Everglades has been lost. So the recovery of some of that spatial scale was critical, and what they referred to as ''habitat heterogeneity''that means a mixture of different habitatsand what has been lost on the Everglades, particularly on the eastern side, has been the edges, the areas that aren't always flooded.
The deep, central sloughs often have water in them all year round. Wading birds, for instance, can forage there during the dry season when the water is low in the deep, central sloughs, but as those fill up in the wet season, they must have shallow wetland areas to forage to survive. They move as that habitat is available to them.
What has been lost on the edges are those short hydroperiod wetlands, the wetlands that are inundated with water only portions of the years. Those portions of the year are critical to providing support and habitat for populations of wading birds, particularly when the central sloughs are filled with water during the wet season.
So, there is a critical loss of function to the Everglades. While 50 percent of the spatial scale has been reduced, approximately 90 percent of the historic levels of wading birds have disappeared, and that is as a result of the loss of some of those critical edge habitats.
Mr. SHERWOOD. So, if you bought that edge habitat, what would you do with it?
Mr. RING. I think the South Florida Water Management District has proposed the acquisition of that area as a way to provide a sustainable solution to the restoration of flows into Shark Slough, and we see benefits from that proposal associated with the additional habitat that it would create. The South Florida Water Management District would be the land owner and the acquiring agency and would manage it the way it manages many areas throughout the Everglades system for both water management purposes and for natural habitat.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHERWOOD. I see we have run out of time. I developed that a little more, but maybe it is
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Nevada, Mr. Gibbons.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I have just a couple of brief questions.
First, Mr. Ring, given the enormity of the size of the Everglades National Park, is it your testimony today that this 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is absolutely essential to the restoration of the entire Everglades system?
Mr. RING. The restoration of the Everglades system is a vast and very, very complicated problem. It has a number of difficult issues associated with it. Finding a sustainable solution in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that is consistent with the long-term restoration goalsnot simply the hydrologic goals, but the overall ecological restoration goals as well is essential to achieve.
Mr. GIBBONS. Let me ask, once you achieve acquisition of this 8-1/2 Square Mile Area to do what you want to do, which is eliminate all the people off of it so you can freely flood it when you need to, what prevents the water flow from exceeding the limitations of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area into other areas?
Mr. RING. Sir, that is a question that is probably more properly directed to the South Florida Water Management District and the Corps of Engineers, but there is a canal and levee system, the eastern protective levee, that runs down along the edge of the Everglades and separates it from the built system. The Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District have designed and are attempting to maintain a design that allows for the restoration of historic hydrologic conditions in the Everglades and the provision of authorized flood protection east of the levee.
Mr. GIBBONS. Does that levee system work?
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RING. Sir, the Modified Water Delivery Project and the C-111 project have been authorized, approved and are being undertaken, as well as the restudy which calls for a replumbing of the entire system. I think that is a fairly good indication that the system, as it exists in south Florida right now, doesn't work, doesn't work for a variety of purposes in many areas.
Mr. GIBBONS. So you are telling us today that the levee that is there on the eastern shore isn't going to work and it will conclude to flood. There will be seepage outside it once you allow for flooding in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, as well?
Mr. RING. No, sir, I'm not saying that.
Mr. GIBBONS. Well, if that is the case, why wouldn't the levee that you want to put on the western side of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area keep water out and seepage out of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area?
Mr. RING. Sir, I am trying to indicate that the Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, the local sponsor, are trying to come to grips with a number of different engineering issues to improve the system that is there. There are problems that are being addressed through these projects and through the restudy.
Your question about the original seepage canal system on the western side of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is one that Mr. Leary spoke to you about before, and that is, it does not make conditions any better in the 8-1/2 mile area, which is an area that already floods. It simply keeps that area from getting worse as some additional water is introduced into the east Everglades as part of the Modified Water Delivery Project.
Mr. GIBBONS. And your introduction of the additional water into the east Everglades, is that changing the flow of water through or around the reservation that we talked about earlier, that is northwest of this area?
Mr. RING. Are you referring to the Modified Water Delivery Project, sir?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GIBBONS. Well, yes.
Mr. RING. Okay.
Mr. GIBBONS. Because you want to now take it to the east and then southwest, come back throughout Shark River Slough.
Mr. RING. Right. It would move the flows that are currently being funneled to the west through Water Conservation Area 3A and being delivered into Everglades National Park through a series of structures called the S-12 structures. On the western side of Shark Slough, it would redistribute those flows to the east to be consistent with the way they flowed historically.
Historically, about two-thirds of the water that flowed across Tamiama Trail into Everglades National Park through Shark Slough came east of the L-67 extension levee, which is the old boundary of the park. It came through the east Everglades addition.
Today, something on the order of 75 percent of the flows that come into the park come to the west of that extension levee and significantly inundate the western parts of Shark Slough, much higher than they ever were inundated historically, and that is area where the Miccosukee Reserve area is. It also causes funneling and stacking up of water in Water Conservation Area 3A immediately to the north of that location.
There are times during high water conditions when water can be 3 to 4 feet higher immediately to the west of the L-67 levee than it would be on the same day immediately to the east of that levee.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Is it true what I have just been told, that we have spent about $1.3 billion on this Everglades restoration project so far?
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. The figure we have seen is about $1.2 billion. That figure is largely composed of appropriations over the years for several ongoing projects, such as the restoration of the Kissimmee River. You may recall that years ago the river was straightened, and we are in the process of taking it back to its original meander.
The figure also includes expenditures for the Modified Water Delivery Project and for the C-111 project, C-51 project, but
Mr. DUNCAN. Is it also trueis it true that it is going tothat the conservative estimates are that the total cost for this is going to be about $11 billion over the next 20 years?
Mr. LEARY. The $1.2 billion figure also includes normal O&M costs associated with managing the parks and the refuges and the sanctuaries and that sort of thing thattwo-thirds of that are normal operations. Most of the new funds in that figure are for land acquisition.
Mr. DUNCAN. I think you are going to have a real problem in that, you know, the entire budget of the National Park Service right now is about $1.3 billion or something like that, and then you talk about all this money as if it is just all there and, you know, I just don't believe it is going to be there.
And then I am told that thisthe acquisition of this 8-1/2 square miles is going to cost about 6is it $60 million; is that what you have estimated?
Mr. LEARY. I believe the estimate for full acquisition is closer to $112 million, I believe.
Mr. DUNCAN. A hundred and twelve? Does that count the litigation costs and that type of thing? Is that in there, too?
Mr. LEARY. I don't believe it is.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, you know, this is justI mean, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, its entire budget is about $11 million a year, and that is the most heavily visited national park in the nation. This is just sounding crazier and crazier the more we get into it. The money's just not there.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEARY. If I may?
Mr. DUNCAN. Not even close.
Mr. LEARY. The vast majority of the figure that you cited is the figure that has been released by the Corps of Engineers for implementation of the Restudy, which is a series of over 60 projects that will help restore the entire ecosystem and, among other things, provide protection to one of our most endangered parks, Everglades National Park. This restoration effort is going to take 20-plus years to be implemented under the best of circumstances.
Mr. DUNCAN. Yes, but you are talking about ridiculous amounts of money, and if we were to even come close to the figures that you are talking about, you would be taking away money from national parks all over thisall over this country. I mean, it is like the Smoky Mountains get about 9 or 10 million visitors a year, three or four times what any other national park gets, and the Smoky's budget is $11, maybe heading to $12 million, and you are talking about $112 million just to acquire this one little piece of property.
I will tell you, it is just ridiculous, just ridiculous. You people are dreaming, and you are being very unrealistic about this whole thing. I mean, you justyou have to be a little more realistic. There are things, if we were going to create an absolutely perfect world and spend just ridiculous amounts of money, I mean we could spend the whole Federal budget on this project, but it just wouldn't make sense to do it. There are some things, you have to be a little bit more realistic.
I know the easiest thing in the world to do is to spend other people's money, but you have to be a little more sensible and a little more thrifty and frugal and economical at some point.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Duncan, and I thank you, Mr. Leary and Superintendent Ring, for being with us. We appreciate your attendance with us today.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to ask you if you can possibly stay for these next two panels. It would be nice if you could. I know we are all very busy around here.
Mr. LEARY. I wish I could. I have a hearing on Thursday I need to prepare for, sir. Thank you very much.
Mr. HANSEN. I certainly understand. I would like to point out to you, this thing is fraught with problems, but I don't know how you get around this 1994 law. I have been reading it while these other gentlemen have been talking. Very clear with respect to any lands acquired pursuant to this subsection, the Secretary may not provide more than 25 percent. Regardless of what the Secretary said, I don't know how he gets around that.
The Committee does not authorize the use of Federal imminent domain authority nor does it create a Federal buffer zone in the park.
Just one after another, just like it was written to stop some of the things that I understand are going on, andbut anyway, I won't bore you with that, but I would sure like the Solicitor's opinion on some of those things. The Solicitor's opinion I would like is the difference between the 1994 Act and the 1996 Farm Act, does he feel that one supersedes the other. I would be very curious to know that. If you could provide that to the Committee, I would appreciate it.
[The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. And also, if it is all right, Superintendent and Mr. Leary, a lot of us have a lot of questions we would like the ask about this issue, and we would like to submit those to you, and we would appreciate the answers if we could get them. Would that be all right?
Mr. LEARY. We would be happy to answer any follow-on questions you have, and if we have any documents that we wish to provide the Committee by way of explanation, we would appreciate it if you would accept them.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. We really appreciate that, and let me just add and I don't mean this in any unkind way, but we would appreciate them relatively soon. We have this problem. I am one of the senior members of the Armed Services Committee, and whenever we ask somebody in the Pentagon for something, I think 18 months later we get the answer. So we just get a little weary of that, if we may. But you folks have always been much better; we appreciate that.
Mr. LEARY. Thank you, sir. One last thing, we would encourage the members of this Subcommittee to come visit and allow us to demonstrate to the members of the Subcommittee exactly what we are doing down there and why, and why the administration considers it such a high priority.
Mr. HANSEN. We appreciate that because the gentleman from Tennessee pointed out, we look at the parks system, and I am constantly fooling around with one of these 374 units of the park systems, or the 73 that we have of national monuments till the President makes another one, but anyway, we are always concerned about that.
So this is one that is really creating kind of a big issue to a lot of us, and maybe we ought to have a Subcommittee meeting or CODEL that goes down there and looks it over. That may not be a bad idea.
Mr. LEARY. We would welcome you, however it is you would care to visit.
Mr. HANSEN. Very kind of you. We appreciate it and thank you, gentlemen.
Our next panel is composed of Mr. Dexter Lehtinen, Thomas A. MacVicar, Dr. Ronald D. Jones and Colonel Terry Rice, Retired, if those gentlemen would like to come up, please.
Gentlemen, we are going to run out of time, and we spent quite a bit of time with these first two gentlemen, and I apologize, but we had a lot of things we wanted to know. So, if it is not terribly inconvenient for you, we would like to follow the clock a little close if we could.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You see it there in front of you. It is just like when you are driving your car. It is a traffic light: green, you start; yellow, you start wrapping up; and red, you stop. So if you just feel that there is no question that you have got to have a minute or two more, go ahead, but we would appreciate if you could stay as close as you could.
Colonel Rice, we will start with you and go across. Is that all right?
Colonel RICE. That is fine.
Mr. HANSEN. You have the floor, sir
STATEMENT OF COLONEL TERRY L. RICE, U.S. ARMY RETIRED, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY, AND ADVISOR, MICCOSUKEE TRIBE OF INDIANS OF FLORIDA
Colonel RICE. Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, Committee members, I am Colonel Terry Rice, and I have been a public servant for over 30 years now. In February of 1998, I retired from the Corps of Engineers after being an officer for that entire period, working around the world, grappling with some pretty tough challenges.
My last assignment in the Corps of Engineers was with the Jacksonville district, where I had oversight responsibility for Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and my major priority, my major focus during that assignment was Everglades restoration. It consumed about 50 percent of my time because of the priority it had.
Once I retired, I decided to continue my efforts in Everglades restoration, and to do that, I took a position at Florida International University as a research scientist. I do have a Ph.D. in hydrology, so it gives me a little knowledge of the water and things that happen in the Evergladeswater is what restoration is aboutand I also advise different people in environmental matters in south Florida, to include the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think that the Everglades restoration is very important for all of us. I think it has far more meaning than what meets the eye, and I just think it is important to be involved in, and that is what I am dedicated to.
When I came into the Jacksonville district back in 1994 it quickly became apparent to me that this Modified Water Delivery Project was a strategic imperative as far as winning this war to save the Everglades. There was no doubt in my mind that if we didn't find some way to move through this quickly, we were going to do undue harm to the entire system.
It is not just a matter of putting that water into Shark River Slough as you directed be done. It also is putting water into the western part of Florida Bay, which is very important. It also relieves many areas to the north. You have the water conservation areas where the tribe practice their culture which had been destroyed over the years. Lake Okeechobee is being destroyed, a lot of the estuaries are receiving fresh water, that shouldn't be receiving it, because of this; and it is driving tourists home. It is destroying the economy of the area.
So it has impacts throughout the entire system, and that was very apparent; and when I started looking at the project, embedded within was the turning point of the whole war: how do you get by this 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that everybody wants to fight over all the time.
And we had a plan submitted to Congress in 1992, which would solve that problemthat was very clear. Once you build that project you can put the water in Shark River Slough and get rid of all this damage that has been created over the years.
So you have heard by earlier testimony, that in 1996 I declined to sign a statement of principles. The reason I declined to sign that statement of principles was because they could not explain to me how we were going to get through all of these issues that we had to get through to do something other than the Corps plan. I could not see a way through that, and nobody was addressing all this Pandora's box of issues that were going to be unleashedincreased budgets, more environmental problems, and congressional approvalsall those kinds of things. I was very concerned.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I basically sat back and watched them go through the process of grappling with finding another alternative, and this basically has gone on since 19927 years. Progress; we have had no substantial progress in implementing the 1989 Act when it comes to modified water deliveries since 1992. It has been essentially dormant.
I watch these agencies do this over the years, and then finally it came to a head. There was a decision reached last year on November the 12th, 1998, and that decision essentially was to buy out the area and, to me, that was an extremely bad decision. It was a decision that was ill-advised, unimplementable, and I think, as the chairman said, we are going to be pushing up daisies before it is implemented. This concerned me very greatly.
And of course, South Florida Water Management District had a big role in that, Miami-Dade County had a big role in that, but what you look at here is the Department of Interior's role and they made a commitment that day at that board meeting. It was based on a letter sent by Secretary Babbitt to the superintendent of Everglades National Park, Dick Ring, who was just here, that basically committed 50 percent of the money to buy the entire area.
I am absolutely convinced that that board would never have made that decision to buy out the area unless that commitment was made, and they understood it as a commitment. If you go to south Florida today, they think the money is in the bank. That is why they made that decision. And unfortunately, that decision was not only a bad decision and a bad commitment in my mind, but it also defied the laws of Congress, and let me just explain a little bit of what I mean.
Number one is, it changed the 1989 Act. You said protect it, they decided to buy it out. There was no amendment; there was no action taken to change that. They committed $60 million when the Corps of Engineers still stands by, and I checked last week, that the $40 million project will solve or satisfy the Federal interest.
They committed 50 percentwe have already been through thatwhen the law clearly says 25 percent. They did not go through NEPA before they did that. If you ask here, Mr. Leary says that they are doing NEPA. Well, down in south Florida, it is committed. They think it is a done deal, even though the NEPA process is going to take a long time.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They did not go through the process of consulting with the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which Congress established to coordinate these kinds of things. They did not coordinate one iota with that group before they made that decision.
And lastly, they did not consult with Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, which has a vested interest in seeing this project accomplished as fast as possible.
So all those things, I think, are indications of some things that allowed that decision to be made. A decision which is going to hold things up.
So, in summary, I think it is bad. Obviously, that is my opinion. We have something here that is bad for progress. We need progress. We talk about the $11 billion that is maybe coming down the road. We need to show some progress in what we already have authorized.
We also are wasting taxpayers' money in my mind. We are also destroying natural resources that shouldn't be destroyed. Some of these are not resilient. They are not going to come back. But worst of all, we are needlessly removing 432 homes from an area when it doesn't have to be done, and it is being done in the name of Everglades restoration; and I think that is totally intolerable and should be stopped.
I think that what you have here is a situation where people need to be held accountable. Accountability, I think, is the word of the day. If we don't hold people accountable, we are never going to get through this whole restoration process, which is going to go on for 40 years. We have to hold people accountable, people and agencies, and until we do that, we are going to continue to hear the excuses that we hear. We are going to see the process continue to go on and we are not going to have progress like we know we need.
And so I think, in a nutshell, it boils down to figuring out how to hold people accountable and getting through all these different processes that people want to create.
Buying out the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is not necessary for Everglades restoration. Not buying out the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is necessary for Everglades restoration as was the wisdom of Congress in enacting the law in 1989. What we need to do now is hold people accountable and get it done.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Colonel.
[The prepared statement of Colonel Rice follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 3 TO 11 HERE
[Written answers to questions from the Committee.]
May 21, 1999
Subject: Everglades Oversight HearingApril 27, 1999
To: Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives
Mr. Hansen did not have time to ask all the questions that he intended to ask at the April 27th hearing. Below are written responses as promised.
Q. Will the Corps plan work with whatever modifications are appropriate in the detailed design phase? A. Absolutely. I can not imagine a scenario for which the concept documented in the Corps plan will not work.
Q. Is it necessary to condemn or fully acquire the 8.5 square mile area for Everglades Restoration? A. Unequivocally NO. As a matter of fact, ''not buying out the area'' is necessary for restoration. Attempting to buyout the area, without a justifiable public purpose, may doom the entire Modified Water Deliveries project and more. We should avoid at all costs unnecessarily removing people from their homes no matter what our endeavor.
Q. Does the 8.5 square mile area block northeast shark river slough? A. Absolutely not. The 8.5 square mile area is on the periphery of the slough on relatively high ground.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Q. What is the affect on lands to the north of Tamiama Trail of delay modified water delivery while some try to condemn the 8.5 square mile area? A. Due to the abnormally high water levels created by the Modified Water Deliveries project not being completed, the Water Conservation Areas, Lake Okeechobee, and much of the estuarine system is being significantly damaged . . . much of this damage is irreversible. Time is of the essence.
Mr. HANSEN. Dr. Jones
STATEMENT OF RONALD D. JONES, Ph.D, SOUTHEAST ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH PROGRAM, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
Dr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Committee members. I will make it very brief.
Mr. HANSEN. Dr. Jones, can I get you to pull that mike up pretty close so we can catch everything you are saying, please.
Dr. JONES. Sure.
I am happy to be here. I am a Professor of Biology at Florida International University. I am also the Director of the Southeast Environmental Research Program at the same university. I am on IPA to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, where I work as a senior scientist. I advise various agencies as to water quality issues, particularly pertaining to the Everglades. I have spent the last 14 years working in the Florida Everglades. I have served the Federal Government as an expert for both the Departments of Justice and Interior on water quality issues and other water-related matters. I also have testified in Congress before on these particular, almost these same issues; and I provide advice to the State of Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, the Miccosukee Tribe and the Corps of Engineers on these things.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Your opening statement pretty much covered the areas that I was going to go over. So I am just going to briefly hit some of the high points.
My major concern is the fact that the delay in Modified Water Delivery and the completion of this C-111 project is causing irreversible harm to many portions of the Florida Everglades. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important issues facing the Florida Everglades today, getting this Modified Water Project done. The restudy, the effort that we are talking about in the future hinges on us having completed this portion of the project, considering that the restudy has taken this as being part of the base condition before we can go on forward with that.
Specifically, I work sort of from the south of the system up to the north. I have five particular areas that concern me.
The first of them are the problems that are associated with the elevated salinities in Florida Bay that are directly caused by our lack of ability to deliver water to the northeast portion of Florida Bay and also to the western boundary of Florida Bay, through the Taylor Slough and the Shark River Slough systems. Neither of these can be corrected without the implementation of the Modified Water program.
Theone of theI guess to highlight that, the salinities in Florida Bay in 1989 were as high as 70 parts per thousand, which is double that of sea water; and areas such as the Taylor River, which is particularly supposed to be a fresh water, or a low salinity river, had salinities of 45 parts per thousand, which is 28 percent higher than sea water.
Some very dramatic problems are occurring in Florida Bay. These are not going to be reversed without the Modified Water Delivery program being put in place.
Everglades National Park, when it was established, the boundary was atnorthern boundary of it is basically U.S. Highway 41. The eastern boundary of it was the L-67 extended canal. The Shark River Sloughvery, very small portion of thatwas included into Everglades National Park along this boundary. Most of it was outside of the park to the east.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The water that has been delivered traditionally into Everglades National Park has been delivered into an area that was short hydroperiod wetlands. We have now flooded that area, causing extensive environmental changes, and we are trying now to restore that by putting water to the eastern flow section, and that is, in fact, Modified Water Delivery. Until we do that, Everglades National Park and the Shark River Slough are going to continue to suffer dramatic damages.
Another thing that comes to effect is, we move up into the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area and the only portion of that I will directly address is, in 1990 I was requested by Everglades National Park and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the potential impact of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area flood mitigation project on its water quality. After extensive research in the design sources of water that would be returned to the Everglades National Park and along with evaluating the phosphorous retention of the buffer strip that was included in this project, I came to the conclusion and advised both the park and the United States Army Corps of Engineers that there was not going to be a water quality problem associated with the project as envisioned.
Currently, the buyout now being the locally preferred option, I do not have the same beliefs. I havealthough they have not done the studies for that, my professional opinion right now is that there could be significant water quality problems associated with the purchase of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that are not being addressed, and they are just assuming that buying the area and flooding it will not have any water quality impacts. I do not believe that to be the case. It does, however, need to be examined carefully.
Anotherfourth point is that because of the inability to deliver water south in the system, destructive flooding is occurring in Water Conservation Area 3A, which is property of the State and leased to the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. These high levels have caused much damage to the mosaic of the communities out there, and they have caused tremendous damage to the tree islands. And in many cases, the tree islands are so destroyed that they will not be able to be rehabited without massive replantings and, in some cases, going out there and actually raising the elevation of the soil so that we can have this habitat restored.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Final concern is with the fact that we havewithout being able to release water south through the system, we have water levels in Lake Okeechobee being held unnaturally high, and we also have massive fresh water releases going to the coastal estuaries which have caused tremendous damage, particularly in the Caloosahatchee and the Saint Lucie estuaries.
Finally, I would just in conclusion say that continued delays in the implementation of the Modified Water Delivery Project will result in continued and potentially irreversible damage to the entire Everglades system, including Everglades National Park. This delay has profound implications directly affecting the plans for restoration of the Florida Everglades and the associated ecosystems.
Congress should do everything and anything within its power to ensure that the Modified Water Delivery Project is implemented and completed without further delay.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Dr. Jones. We appreciate your comments.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Jones follows:]
STATEMENT OF DR. RONALD D. JONES, PH.D., DIRECTOR AND PROFESSOR, SOUTHEAST ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH CENTER AND DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY, UNIVERSITY PARK
I am a full Professor of Biology and the Director of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University. In addition I am currently on an IPA from the State of Florida as a Senior Scientist to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. I have a Ph.D. in microbiology from Oregon State University and have spent the last 14 years working in the Florida Everglades.
My education, experience and research work qualify me as a water quality expert, including water quality in wetland systems, with special emphasis on oligotrophic (low nutrient) systems such as the Florida Everglades. In addition I am an expert in general Everglades ecology and Everglades water related issues in general. I have been qualified in Federal and state court and testified as an expert in these areas and related matters.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have served as a Federal Government expert (Departments of Justice and Interior) on Everglades water quality and other water related issues since 1988 and have testified before the United States Congress on these issues. In addition I also provide expert assistance to the State of Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida on Everglades ecology and water related issues.
It is my professional opinion that the implementation of the Modified Water Delivery Project (MWD) along with the completion of the C-111/Taylor Slough modifications currently under construction are the most important and critical components of Everglades restoration. Without MWID, not only does the northeast Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park (ENP), continue to unnaturally dry out, but the Everglades to the north of ENP in Water Conservation Area 3A (WCA-3A) are being unnaturally flooded, thus destroying wildlife (including endangered and threatened species), tree islands and other critical habitat. Water that historically flowed through Shark River Slough is now being shunted unnaturally to the estuaries to the north causing imbalances that that adversely affect water quality and the ecology of these systems. Lake Okeechobee is kept at elevated levels for prolonged periods of time, which adversely affects the remaining littoral zone, which is vital to its ecology and health. The natural system, which includes the freshwater Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, the coastal estuaries and the nearshore waters of the Southwest Florida Shelf, is suffering severe damage because of the failure to implement the Modified Water Delivery Project. The longer we wait to implement MWD, the less the likelihood is that we can preserve and protect the Everglades and its associated ecosystems. Delay is the biggest threat to the Everglades.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Working from south to north the following five water quality and ecology issues are of specific concern:
1. Elevated salinities in Florida Bay.
In 1989 Florida Bay experienced salinities as high as 70 parts per thousand (ppt), which are over twice the salinity of seawater. It is the belief of most scientists and my opinion that these unnaturally elevated salinities triggered a massive seagrass die-off in Florida Bay from which it has not yet recovered. In addition to exceedingly high central Bay salinities, traditionally freshwater to low salinity areas such as Taylor River also experienced salinities that would not be expected under natural conditions. For over one year Taylor River had salinities continuously in excess of 30 ppt and as high as 45 ppt (28 percent higher than full strength seawater). These conditions resulted in massive negative impacts in the northeast portion of Florida Bay along with extensive persistent algal blooms in the central and western portions of the Bay. The delays in implementing MWID has been in large part responsible for the inability of managers to control salinities in Florida Bay and moderate the effects of development within the watershed that decrease freshwater flows to the Bay.
2. Hydroperiod restoration of the Northeast Shark River Slough.
When Everglades National Park was established, the northern boundary (U.S. Highway 41) did not include the historic major water flow way, Shark River Slough. Water delivery structures were constructed that delivered water to areas to the west that only included a small portion of the historic Shark River Slough. This resulted in unnatural flooding of short hydro period areas and drying out of large portions of the Northeast Shark River Slough not included in ENP. The Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989 included the purchase of this area with the intent of rehydrating and restoration of this area. Although the initial rehydration of this area had dramatic positive effects on this area, both in reducing the flooding in the areas west of the Shark River Slough and the establishment of peat forming communities in the Northeast Shark River Slough, ecological restoration has essentially been halted due to the failure to implement MWID.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
3. Water quality issues associated with the 8.5 Square Mile Area.
In 1990 I was requested by Everglades National Park and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the potential impacts of the 8.5 Square Mile Area and the flood mitigation project for water quality impacts to ENP. After extensive research into the design, sources of water being returned to ENP, along with evaluation of the phosphorus retention capabilities of the soils and biological communities within the project buffer strip, I concluded that there would not be a water quality impact to the Park with the implementation of the Corps' plan for the 8.5 SMA. Although a similar evaluation of the current plan to buyout the 8.5 SMA has not been conducted, it is my professional opinion that serious water quality impacts could result from the implementation of this option that were not possible under the Congressionally authorized MWD Project. This needs to be carefully evaluated as nutrient pollution and eutrophication is the major long-term irreversible threat to ENP and the Everglades in general.
4. Destructive flooding of Water Conservation Area 3A.
Because water cannot be moved south through ENP until the completion of MWD, long-term and persistent flooding of Water Conservation Area 3A has occurred. This flooding has resulted in massive changes in the marsh vegetation patterns, tree island destruction and negative impacts on the wildlife, including endangered and threatened species. In addition WCA-3A contains critical habitat that is being destroyed and will continue to be destroyed or degraded until MWD is completed. Of particular importance is the fact that although the marsh vegetation patterns will reestablish themselves given a reasonable period of time, the tropical hardwood hammocks (tree islands) will not be restored in a reasonable time period without a massive replanting effort and in many cases reestablishment of soil surface elevations. Therefore, it is extremely important that further destruction be avoided. Although these tree islands represent a relatively small portion of the habitat, their presence is critical in determining the presence of many bird, reptile and mammal species found in the Everglades. Although we all acknowledge the importance of Everglades National Park, there is no excuse for ignoring the equal importance of the Water Conservation Areas. This is especially critical since implementation of MWD is of equal importance to the preservation and restoration of the entire Everglades system including ENP.
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5. Water levels in Lake Okeechobee and freshwater releases to the coastal estuaries.
Although not as directly linked to MWD, the inability to move water along its natural north to south path results in elevated levels of water in Lake Okeechobee and the release of excessive amounts of water to the coastal estuaries. This has resulted in negative impacts to the littoral zone of the Lake. The unnatural release of water to the coastal estuaries has resulted in massive fish and shellfish kills, algal blooms and sedimentation. All conditions that are unacceptable and need to be stopped immediately. These freshwater releases have problems associated with both quantity and timing in addition to water quality.
Conclusions and Recommendation
In conclusion, continued delays in the implementation of the Modified Water Delivery Project will result in continued and potentially irreversible damage to the entire Everglades system including Everglades National Park. This delay has profound implications directly affecting the plans for restoration of the Florida Everglades and the associated ecosystems. Congress should do anything and everything within its power to ensure that the Modified Water Delivery Project is implemented and completed without any further delay.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Thomas K. MacVicar, you have got the floor, sir.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS K. MACVICAR, P.E., PRESIDENT, FEDERICO & LAMB, INC.
Mr. MACVICAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. My name is Tom MacVicar. I am a registered Professional Engineer in south Florida, today representing the Dade County Farm Bureau, which is an organization thatrural organization representing the $1 billion agricultural industry just east of Everglades National Park.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think I may be the only person in the room today who was at the meeting in 1989 of this same Committee, then chaired by Representative Vento, when the 1989 Act was heard. At that time I was an employee of the South Florida Water Management District, and we had just completed a 10-year deliberate, inclusive, very public process dealing with the issues associated with restoring the Everglades National Park, protecting the east Everglades, dealing with property rights and other issues.
Farmers participated; every State, local and Federal agency within the jurisdiction participated; landowners, residents and environmental groups participated.
We had to deal with a national park boundary that made no environmental sense, a Federal water control project that did more harm than good in many cases to the park. We had difficult property rights issues, and we had difficult secondary impact issues, but the community came together as a community.
We reached consensus behind the plan that was embodied in the 1989 Act. It was a tremendous victory for Florida's Everglades, a tremendous step forward for the State of Florida, and was really the first concrete example of the State working together with Congress to restore the ecosystem. It predated congressional action on the restudy and the Kissimmee restoration by 3 years.
It was also a great affirmation for me personally that the process worked. We had good scientists from every agency working together. That fostered good policy by the leaders in Florida, and it ended up with a good solution, which was the Modified Water Delivery Project in combination with the acquisition of Everglades National Park.
What has happened in the 10 years since then has not been nearly as positive a process, and I would like at this point to comment on a few of the statements made by the first panel because the Florida Bay issue came to a head shortly after this Act was passed and shortly after the plan was produced by the Corps and caused a lot of confusion, basically caused the abandonment of the scientific approach to the issue, and it drove a lot of government process.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The 1994 Act that has been talked about here today was really a way to deal with another Corps projectCorps park project, the C-111 project, which is south of Modified Water Delivery. That is a project that recommended, without Congress ever reviewing the plan, that 10,000 acres of our most productive farmland be bought by the government and converted to wetlands.
The 1994 Act was a way to try and get Federal money into the acquisition of the Frog Pond and the Rocky Glades, which are in the C-111 project; it was not a way to get Federal money into the 8-1/2 Square Mile project until the very end when that component was added. And as we heard today, although the water management district has spent well over $100 million on the Frog Pond and the Rocky Glades, the Department of Interior has yet to contribute its first dime to matching those acquisitions.
I would like to finish up with aone of the points, this idea of flood mitigation. I apologize for the wandering, but the 1989 Act did not invent the term ''flood mitigation.'' It said flood protection. When the Corps, at the public meetings in Florida, in front of the community, talked about this plan, it was a flood protection plan that was designed to provide a 1-in-10-year flood protection to the area.
Flood mitigation is an idea that the Federal agencies had to come up with after the Act was passed because this looked like a water project that didn't go through the normal water project process. It did not have a cost-benefit ratio. It was not funded through the water resource development program. The way that was defined by the people in the Corps and Interior at the time, completely separate from the interactions with the local sponsor, was to call it ''mitigation.''
Recent modeling performed by our firm for the water management district shows that it does provide the same level of flood protection as the lands just east of the levee. Flood mitigation is a rhetorical concept. It is not a flood protection concept. It is not an engineering concept, and I don't think it is valid the way it is being used in this instance.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In terms of recommendations, construction of the Modified Water Delivery Project is essential to the protection and restoration of Everglades National Park. I think it is a scandal that here we are with the park that is always referred to as the most endangered unit in the system 10 years after this plan was approved by Congress. We have no meaningful action to put it in place. This is the single most important project for the park, and it is not being built.
The flood protection system around the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is not in conflict with Everglades restoration. It is not in conflict with the protection of the park, and it should be built to move this project forward.
I would like to reassure you that the action this Committee took in 1989 is still valid today. This plan is still the best plan to move forward with for the Everglades, and by doing so, you will not foreclose any further options of restoration, you will not build an impediment to restoration, and you will do more than anyone has done in the last 20 years to move protection of Everglades National Park forward.
Thank you for your time.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. MacVicar follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 12 TO 31 HERE
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Lehtinen
STATEMENT OF DEXTER LEHTINEN, ESQ., LEHTINEN, O'DONNELL, VARGAS & REINER, P.S., REPRESENTING MICCOSUKEE TRIBE OF INDIANS OF FLORIDA
Mr. LEHTINEN. Yes. My name is Dexter Lehtinen, and I represent the Miccosukee Tribe. I have also been a Florida State representative, State senator, the United States attorney and did testify in those 1993 hearings in the Keys that Delegate Romero-Barceló spoke of.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Most of my statement has been covered with your statement and questions. So let me just reemphasize.
The delay backs water up and destroys tribal lands. The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area does not have water flow over it under any circumstances. It is only prone to flooding just the way all of Dade County where I grew up is, and that is that if the water table under the ground is higher, then your rainwater doesn't soak in as fast.
This area is not in the slough. Therefore, the Miccosukee Tribe think it is inappropriate to pit those residents against the tribe and subject them to the same kind of Indian removal policies, so to speak, when the land is high enough and it is really a question of just water flowing off.
Let me reemphasize, the Corps has done its job past NEPA and EIS; and alsothe kind of bait-and-switch, willing-seller logic that is used is shown also in the Mack-Graham letter. Senator Mack's letter that was mentioned earlier says he supports buying from willing sellers, and Senator Mack told me personally after he signed that letter that he absolutely does not support condemnation of these people. The first paragraph says ''willing seller'' in the Mack-Graham letter.
Let me just say this. The park has already made up its mind. The park said in November 1998 after a secret group that violated, we think, the Florida sunshine law, gave a recommendation to reverse standing policy and condemn the area. Superintendent Ring stood up in front of the meeting in November that Colonel Rice referred to and said on behalf of Secretary Babbitt, we are prepared to participate in the full cost of the acquisition alternative with 50 percent of the funding. That was a total surprise to even those of us who serve on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.
Subsequently, the local sponsor said in writing, it is true that the acquisition of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is not necessary for Everglades restoration, but they want to do it as a land-use issue.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me just list quickly the reason Congress should be concerned with this is, first of all, that these delays cause environmental damages.
Secondly, it is contrary to the 1989 Act.
Third, it is contraryand Chairman Hansen has done this, so I won't quotecontrary to the 1994 amendment because it exceeds the 25 percent spending cap and because it involves a Federal Government in condemnation.
Furthermore, it violates the National Environmental Policy Act because they are going directly against the NEPA-EIS plan in 1992.
Furthermore, in 1989 they absolutely committed funds. In south Florida, they actually say the money is in the bank. They committed funds without a 1998 EIS.
Furthermore, we think it violates the Water Resources Development Act. I serve on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force that is supposed to coordinate and prioritize and give advice on these matters, and I can tell you, I first learned of this Interior Department decision when I sat in the audience of the South Florida Water Management District.
It furthermore violates the restudy procedures. Let's look at this and think about this for a second. It is not in the restudy. It would never make it in the restudy. If it was in the restudy, it wouldn't be a locally preferred option. It is a locally preferred option because the entire rest of the Federal Government does not support this procedure.
Park has gone to the local sponsor for an LPO, and then contrary to Corps regulations, where the local sponsor is supposed to pay 100 percent of a locally preferred option, they want to launder 50 percent Federal money in there and buy out that local sponsor to do what Congress wouldn't otherwise do.
I also think that they should have consulted this Committee when they got their declaration of taking on the park expansion area because you could have conditioned it.
And I also think that it is inappropriate and unseemly for the Federal Government to be involved in promoting a project which haswhich neither the State nor the Federal Government has imminent domain authority for. The State legislature will not give imminent domain authority. Chairman Hansen is right; it does not have it today.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Water Management has frequently testified to the State legislature that it does not have imminent domain authority for restoration. It has sought it. Mr. Leary went to the State legislature 3 weeks ago and asked them to put imminent domain authority for this project condemning the 8-1/2 in the State legislation. By this Friday when the legislature ends, it will not have put it in, and I am quite sure.
My recommendations briefly are as follows. With regard to Modified Water Deliveryno, let me add. The Chairman handled the farm bill issue, but I just think it is clear. The farm bill creates no additional authority and doesn't repeal any existing law. As a matter of fact, those of us who helped prioritize farm bill money never had condemning the 8-1/2 even discussed with us, as a matter of fact.
Regarding Mod Water Delivery, I would recommend that the Committee assert its authority with regard the declaration of taking in the east Everglades National Park expansion area and condition that declaration of taking on full compliance with the law everywhere else, including not using any Federal funds to do anything to condemn in the 8-1/2.
I would recommend that Corpsthat funding be shifted from the Interior Department to the Corps because despite the fact that they said they didn't have a veto, in response to the Congressman's question, the fact of the matter is, Dick Ring has written in letters to the Corps that he will not fund the Corps project, and the chief engineer says to me he cannot get any money from the Department of Interior.
I would also hope the Committee could direct the Corps to do detailed planning, any modifications that are necessary on additional information under the 1992 proposal, but that planning not include what is essentially an illegal alternative, that is, condemning the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
Right now, the Corps, as a political matter out of Washington, does not want to tell the district, even though many in the district would like to just be told by the Corps, that, look, it is an illegal proposal that we made, so forget it.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Two other items just briefly: I think that the Interior Department should be reduced in restoration to nothing more than a landowner because they act as a landowner. It would be wise for the South Florida Ecosystem Task Force to be chaired by the Corps of Engineers, and I don't think funding like farm bill money ought to go through the Secretary of Interior.
I think that the Corps has done everything to keep the 1989 promise. And I just hope that this Committee can induce the other agencies to keep their promise as well. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you very much. Any other comments? No, I am not going to give you another chance.
But let me turn to the gentleman from Nevada. I appreciate your testimony from all four of you gentleman. It was very good.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I just have one brief question for Mr. Lehtinen.
Mr. Lehtinen, you are an attorney obviously. And on March 18th, 1999, the South Florida Water Management District sent a letter out, and I will quote. Its subject was a 90-day letter of assurance. I will quote the first paragraph: ''The South Florida Water Management District, 'District,' is in the process of providing relocation services for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area Project. To carry out our plans for the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, it will be necessary for you to move.''
That is part of that first statement. Do you believe that that statement gives the impression to the people in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that it is mandatory that they sell their property to the district?
Mr. LEHTINEN. It absolutely does give them that impression. And further memos that went out earlier that have the same tone and tenor, saying that we will acquire the area, that if you don't become a willing seller now when there is a considerable amount of money, you will be later condemned, the governing board can vote to condemn you.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All those have produced an atmosphere where these people think they will be condemned, and they believe they have to move quickly or they will be the last people on the totem pole. I should confess that I am an attorney, and this was not planned before, but after the governing board of the Water Management District directed the Inspector General of the district to investigate coercivepossible coercive tactics, which was really an allegation I made at the last governing board meeting, some members ofhomeowners have come to me; and I believe next weekI only say this because I don't want to mislead youthat we will probably be filing some fraud in the inducement lawsuits based on the fact that there are many people who say I never would have sold if I didn't think they could condemn me.
They absolutely are not told what the Water Management District tells the legislature. They have testified to the legislature that we cannot condemn that area unless you give us authority. And at the same time, they tell the residents that they are going to be condemned.
Mr. GIBBONS. Do you think that this letter is consistent with the testimony of the two gentlemen that were here from the Park Service earlier, that you were listening and privy to, where their statements state that this acquisition is not yet predetermined?
Mr. LEHTINEN. I think the fact is that it is predetermined. For reasons that I have said earlier, it is predetermined because the staff of the Water Management District says that to the residents. And the idea on the part of these staff people is that, if they can getcoerce enough people into selling that their plan was that the State legislature or the Federal Government would, years later, upon seeing a lot of land has already been bought, that the legislature would be coerced, would essentially say it is a sunk cost. We have got no choice but to go ahead and condemn. Maybe it is not a good idea, but we have already acquired half of it from so-called ''willing sellers,'' so let us condemn the rest. It is really an abusive or illegalimproper tactic.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GIBBONS. Despite the fact that it is an ongoing NEPA study, which would include the acquisition or the construction of a levee and a seepage drainage ditch, there is a back-room agreement or some conclusion that the actual result will be acquisition rather than a levee construction.
Mr. LEHTINEN. I mean, absolutely, the Department of Interior has made the decision. They make it clear that they have made the decision everywhere except in Congress and when we sue them in court. In court, their defense will be, well, the letterwe said we were committing the money, but we really meant we are going to study committing the money.
They do know NEPA. They knew NEPA well enough to walk out of a meeting after they commit money, look at me and say, well, you know, if you sue us under NEPA, we are going to say we really haven't made the decision. I mean, literally say that to me; I don't mean figuratively, I mean literally.
They say I will lose the NEPA lawsuit because they will swear they never made a decision, even though, in south Florida, it is as made as strong as you can make it. And Superintendent Ring's statement to the governing board had no qualifiers; it said, we have committed the money.
Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity. I find the testimony of these folks very enlightening in comparison to the bureaucratic answers we received by the first two witnesses.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. I thank the gentleman from Nevada.
The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I don't really have any questions. I would say, Mr. Gibbons described the testimony as enlightening, and it was, but it was also sad because it is another exampleparticularly the testimony of Mr. Lehtinen is another example of what we hear day after day after day after day up here of Federal bureaucratic arrogance.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And people all over this country are getting so disgusted and so fed up because they feel that we are ending up or we already have a government that is ''of, by, and for the bureaucrats'' instead of ''of, by and for the people.'' I think you are going to see some changes before long.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Duncan.
I have about a dozen questions for each one of you, but I am also realistic enough to know we have got to be out of this room in a little while, and we have got another panel coming up. So can I submit these to you and get an answer, because I see some real talent sitting here, and I would sure like to have some answers to this if I could.
So with that, we will submit these questions to you, and we will move on to the final panel if that is all right.
[The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. The final panel is Joette Lorion, the Honorable Steve Shiveram I pronouncing that rightShiver, and Ibel Aguilera. And I probably fouled that up all over the place. Do your best with my poor pronunciation of your name, would you?
Ms. LORION. It was very close.
Mr. HANSEN. Our first one is Joette Lorion. Is that how you pronounce that, Lorion?
Ms. LORION. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. One out of three, that is not too bad.
STATEMENTS OF JOETTE LORION, ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. You know the rules. We will turn the time over to you, and you watch the clock and do your best, okay?
Ms. LORION. Thank you.
''Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places close to homeso close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.'' And that is Eleanor Roosevelt, March 27, 1958.
My name is Joette Lorion. I am an environmentalist. I have worked on environmental issues in Canada and the United States for 30 years. Almost 10 of those years have been spent working on the Florida Everglades. I was considered a strong environmentalist.
I love the Florida Everglades. I have given countless volunteer hours to the battle to protect and restore the priceless Everglade ecosystem. I served nearly 9 years as a volunteer vice president, president, and conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades, the group founded by pioneer conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who reminded us in her book ''The Everglades: River of Grass,'' there are no other Everglades in the world.
Another of Mrs. Douglas' messages I took to heart was her constant emphasis that the greater Everglades ecosystem needs to be preserved and restored in its entirety. I firmly believe that to save the priceless park at the end of the system, we must save the Everglades to the north, including the water conservation areas, Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee.
Congress recognized long ago the Everglades are dying. So did Congressman Dante B. Fascell, a friend of mine and a true friend of the Everglades. He was instrumental in the passage of the Everglades National Park Expansion Act that you spoke of today. He fashioned one of his greatest compromises in 1989 by providing for the restoration of flows to the park while instructing the Army Corps of Engineers to protect a rural residential area called the Ré because he knew we couldn't remove those people from that land; and at that time, they didn't think they needed to.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't know exactly why the agencies didn't follow the intent of Congress, but I do know the results of their inaction. I have observed the serious flooding damage the failure to restore natural flows has inflicted on the beautiful River of Grass to the north of the park.
The Miccosukee Tribe's Everglades River of Grass has become a River of Death. The Tribe estimates that 85 percent of the white tailed deer population has been destroyed. Century old trees that hold together the tree islands, an integral part of the Tribal culture and religious customs have been destroyed. It saddens me when I hear Chairman Cypress say, ''The Everglades is our mother, and she is dying.'' It saddens me when Tribal elders speak of the multitudes of birds that once existed but no longer do, or when a younger tribal member shows me rotted tree limbs and speaks about the spirit of his ancestors and how the killing of these trees is like cutting off his limbs. I am an advisor also to the Tribe, and I speak with them often.
It saddens me when Wayne Nelson, a fisherman who has fought valiantly for Lake Okeechobee much of his life, tells me the Great Lake is near death. It saddens me when I hear tales of water shot out the estuaries killing fish and destroying the livelihood of the fisherman.
Why, I ask myself, are we struggling to unnecessarily remove people from the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area that Congress said to protect, rather than moving forward with the project that is vital to the survival of the entire Everglades and vital to preserving Everglades National Park that belongs to all we Americans?
Perhaps the answer is that others like myself could not see the forest for the trees. I, like many environmentalists, believed the myth that it was necessary to remove these people from their homes to restore the flows. I, like many environmentalists, believed that these people lived in illegal shacks without permits. I, like many environmentalists, were probably told the tale that 65 to 85 percent of them are willing sellers.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After many calls from a resident of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, Madeleine Fortin, I researched the issue for myself and visited the area which I had never visited. I found lovely rural communities
spotted with farms, nurseries, and many beautiful homes that look like they came out of ''House and Garden'' magazine.
I attended a public meeting and saw hundreds of very unwilling and very angry residents. Property owners showed me legal building permits. And I later discovered that the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area had even been exempted from a flood ordinance, that I had been told it was stamped on the back of their deeds they know they are in an area that floods.
I later saw a map that showed the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is not in Shark River Slough. And I read the Water Management District consultant's report that Mr. MacVicar did the hydrological analysis that showed that acquisition of the area was not necessary, because natural flows would be restored equally to the Slough whether you bought the area for $120 million or built the $39 million levee.
But all of the facts, and I try to tell them to people, wouldn't break through the myth. So finally on November 12, 1998, when I stood at that Water Management District meeting, and I had been privy to a process that I thought was totally unfair and unjust to these people, I resigned from Friends of the Everglades, the group that I loved, because I didn't want to taint them with the words that I was going to say; and that was that I felt that this area did not need to be bought out, and that if we bought it out, we were throwing the Everglades and the Park down the drain, because they weren't going to leave, and we were never going to restore the flow.
I thought about my house and what it means to me. It is a home, it is not a house. And you know, I saw people saying they came from Cuba, they came from Cuba on rafts. They escaped. Their land was being confiscated by Castro, and now it was being taken from them in this country.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I guess, lastly, I would just like to say that we really need your help. The Everglades restoration must be restored, not just for the Federal interest and the national park, but for the Federal trust responsibility, to the Indians lands, for the Federal threatened and endangered species that exist in this area. It is important to the water supply of the people of south Florida.
And Congressman Fascell was a wise man. We will make no progress on the Modified Water Delivery Project that is his legacy if we continue to fight.
I would just like to end with the words he said at a ground-breaking ceremonyand I stood on the stage with farmers and people from the community or Steve Shiver, who was once my friendly enemyand what these words were, ''It seems like we have been discussing the same thing for about 50 years or maybe longer. But for a long time, we have had just one group fighting another group. And those of us who were caught in the middle trying to even out these various pressures found it almost impossible to make a lot of progress. There is only one way to get things done, and that is for everybody to work together. The government, the people, we are all the same people.''
We don't need victims for Everglades restoration. We don't need to be treating human beings like poker chips, but we do need to
do this project. We owe it to Congressman Fascell to make progress on the wonderful law that is his legacy, for preservation of his legacy will mean progress on the only Everglades in the world.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Lorion follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 32 TO 43 HERE
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HANSEN. Mayor, good to have you with us.
Let me ask you, did they rebuild Homestead Air Force Base after Andrew went through there?
STATEMENT OF HON. STEVE SHIVER, MAYOR, CITY OF HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA
Mr. SHIVER. I am going to refer to that, and I will actually read the headline put on an article, ''Air Base Put on Fast Track for Renewal, Homestead to Get Priority Funding for Rebuilding and to be a Model Air Force Reuse Facility.''
Unfortunately, that was printed on July 8 of 1993, and we still have no movement on the Air Force base, largely because of the Department of Interior's involvement. I thank you for asking that question. And, boy, I had that article ready, didn't I?
Mr. HANSEN. You were ready for me on that one.
Mr. SHIVER. Thank you very much, Chairman Hansen, and the rest of the Committee for allowing me to share with you some thoughts. I was asked to submit a supplemental analysis of my comments; and simply one line was the frustration that this community is feeling. That recaps my entire written document that has been submitted to you for the record.
Have you ever seen a snowball start at the top of the hill? Well, as Mr. Duncan pointed out, the only difference that we have now is that this DOI-driven cost and expense, there is no bottom to that hill. That snowball is going to continue. That snowball is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger until somebody stands up and demands accountability.
My community was devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I hate to even speak of that because that was such a traumatic time for all of our community. But, realistically, we have rebuilt, we have come back physically; and mentally is still challenging sometimes. You get the scares of hurricanes, and everybody runs for the boards and the bottled water. But we still had been able to come back.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the closure of the Air Force base, the issues with Water Management that continue to beto go on, that we will never come back from, unless there is some accountability from this Committee demanded byor demanded by this Committee to the Department of Interior.
I think the issue of accountability really stems from several things. But I want to point out a fact that has been mentioned a couple of times, and that is the Frog Pond. The Frog Pond was something that had to beit was essential to be acquired. For the agricultural areas and the uses in the Frog Pond, it was just killing Florida Bay.
The Department of Interior lobbied very strong with the Water ManagementWater Management board to basically move forward in acquiring that property. Their cost estimates at that time were $11.5 million. Come to find out, once all was said and done, $43 million later, that condemnation, there has now been research published that agriculture really was not the demise of Florida Bay; and that property has now been leased back to farmers. I guess that is just another issue or another point of best management practices.
You mentioned the Air Force base, the fast track there. We have had many politicians, we have had many representatives from various government agencies come into our community and say they are going to do everything they can to make sure that the economic stability of our community is dealt with, from putting the Air Force base back on-line, from ensuring that our subsurface flooding issues that has been basically killing our agriculture, as testified to by Tom MacVicar, the representative from Farm Bureau; and still nothing has been done.
We talk about willing sellers in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, willing sellers. After the Department of Interior and Water Management for 10 years have been asking, on again off again, whether or not they are going to condemn the property, I would probably be a willing seller, too, just to get out.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think Dexter Lehtinen hit it on the head when he said there are strong evidences of coercion there. How would you like your home to be subject to condemnation discussions for over 10, 15 years? That roller coaster, that emotional roller coaster I think you would be on would be just devastating.
Joette mentioned our love-hate relationship in years past. Well, it was the vice president of that very organization that Joette represented that told me at that same ground-breaking, we are going to get your land whether you like it or not. That is a vice president of Friends of the Everglades, a representative, be it formal or not, of the Department of Interior and their movement to basically seize all land area in south Dade.
I have asked on many occasions at the end of the day, Mr. Department of Interior, what do you see south Florida being? Give us your agenda. Give us your results. There are none. There are vague answers, as you were asking many pointed questions. And I thank you all for having the ear or giving us the opportunity to voice, because I don't think we have been listened to.
We talk a lot about science, we talk a lot about birds and bees, but what about the economic viability of the community that can actually throw a stone at the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park? Thank you for giving us that opportunity to voice those concerns.
I want to close with a couple things, just again in a department run rampant. A $5 million pump has been built west of Homestead, the city of Homestead. That pump was said to be essential in replumbing the Everglades. That was done recently, and they don't have a permit to turn on the pump. The Department of Interior and Water Management and the State of Florida have not come to an agreement. It was built on time for extra money, actually ahead of schedule. They can't even turn it on.
It is a department run rampant. It is an environmental community in some instances, the extremists, that are holding us hostage, and that is the people that actually live, work and play.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One more point, and I will close. Recently, there has been serious discussion with the Collier Foundation for swapping our Homestead Air Force Base for drilling rights that they still maintain in the Big Cypress.
Now, Bill Leary will tell you that his immediate reaction was to send the Collier family and the Collier interests to Homestead to talk to the local concerns. Well, I met with them the dayyesterday, actually, and that was one of the first meetings and discussions that we have had concerning that entire issue.
Once again, the Department of Interior is cutting deals on the backs of Homestead and South Miami-Dade County without any consultation or input from the people who live, work and play there.
Please demand accountability. Thank you for the opportunity to address you, and I will be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mayor.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shiver follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. STEVE SHIVER, MAYOR, CITY OF HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about several issues that have really changed the lives of many people in the community of South Miami-Dade County. I hope the information and testimony provided will give you insight and some understanding of not only the difficult economic challenges we have faced over the past few years, but the seemingly increasing regulations, constraints and intrusive environmental bureaucracy that continues to plague our community.
South Miami-Dade County, more specifically the Cities of Homestead and Florida City, have historically depended upon two economic bases. The first being farming with the vast majority of our work force depending on our greatest resource, land. Secondly, the former Homestead Air Force Base, opened in the late 40's, was a significant employer of many in our community.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you know, in August of 1992 Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida leaving South Miami-Dade County facing the most difficult task of rebuilding every aspect of our region. Little did we know that the devastation of Hurricane Andrew was just the beginning of our long and arduous journey on that dreadful night we were not only destroyed physically and mentally from the affects of the hurricane, it also brought about the closure of the Homestead Air Force Base which has proven to be far more devastating than any natural disaster.
Immediately following Hurricane Andrew, there were many that came in to town promising the rapid recovery of our economy. In fact I have attached an article from our local paper dated July of 1993 that really lays the groundwork for our frustration. The headlines read ''Air base put on fast track for renewal.'' In this article you'll see comments by then Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Perry. Mr. Perry indicated that the reuse of Homestead Air Force Base would set the standard for military transfers in the Country. He goes on to say that the idea is for other communities facing military facility closures to be able to look to us (Homestead) for ideas and inspiration. Well ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately the only inspiration that came out of the Homestead Air Force Base closure was to those who saw it as an opportunity to discontinue all air related uses of what had been a heavy traffic airport for almost 50 years.
You may ask what this has to do with the issue at hand or the Department of Interior. Well it's my opinion that the majority of the propaganda circulated in the environmental community about this issue is from organizations and individuals with close ties to the Department of Interior. In fact, this has been a pattern for many years.
I'm relatively new to this process being elected to office in 1993. At that time, the multitude of environmental issues ranging from the reuse of the former Homestead Air Force Base to subsurface flooding of our farmland were becoming increasingly hot topics. However, a bit naiAE4ve and eager to ''get the job done'' I thought I could bargain and reason in good faith. I thought we could reach a solution or compromise that would allow for the sustainability of not only our precious environment and natural resources but also our fragile economy and the people who call South Miami-Dade County home.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Throughout my ''awakening'' I was told by many who has been down that road before, not to trust ''them,'' (the Department of the Interior and environmental groupies) not to let my guard down. After all, this was the same Department of Interior and Everglades Administration that in 1995 convinced the State of Florida that the 5,200 agricultural acres referred to as the frog pond was absolutely critical for the Everglades to survive. Agricultural uses had to be eliminated immediately to save Florida Bay. This was also the same DOI that said the cost of acquisition of the 5,200 acres was only going to be $11.5 million and they assured the taxpayers of Florida that they would be there with their share. Well in 1995, the property was condemned and the actual cost turned out to be $43 million. To sum it up, South Miami-Dade lost thousands of agricultural jobs and the Park Service has since published research showing that the Florida Bay problem was not related to agriculture. Meanwhile, the State of Florida has leased most of the 5,200 acre frog pond to ''different'' farmers to grow lower value crops. Chalk one up for ''Best Management Practices.''
Nonetheless, I was able to convince many to come together for meaningful discussion with various environmental groups, Department of Interior representatives, farmers, bankers, land owners and the like. We worked diligently with sometimes quite heated debate addressing land use issues surrounding the former Homestead Air Force Base. I guess my true ''awakening'' happened when I learned that environmental representatives within this group were actually the driving force behind the lack of activity relating to the reuse of the former Homestead Air Force Base. No compromise short of nothing at all was good enough. I was really shocked when a Vice President of the Friends of the Everglades, an organization with close ties to the Department of the Interior, informed me that they would ''get all of our land if we like it or not.''
As a life long resident of the City of Homestead growing up with the Everglades and Biscayne National Park as our neighbor, the last thing we as a community want to do is contribute to their demise. However, we must also listen to the stakeholders of the community. We must listen to those who actually have their lives invested in this community. Those who want to work, live, play and raise their families here. As a taxpayer, we must also listen to reason. There must be sound science in place before major projects are undertaken. The taxpayer of America can not afford another frog pond.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know there are many that will testify to the merits of the science. They will argue that we have studied this issue for many years and have reached conclusions that have not been implemented. Perhaps it's because the results of these conclusions are not acceptable to the Department of the Interior. Well, in South Miami-Dade there are a lot more interests than just the Department of Interior and we plead with you to help us get that point across.
At issue today is the 5,800 acres in South Miami-Dade County referred to as the 8.5 square mile area (8.5 sma). Once again, the Department of the Interior has determined that the acquisition of this land and many homes is essential to the survival of the Everglades. However, there have been three Governors in the State of Florida who have appointed various study commissions dealing with land acquisition and water issues in the East Everglades. Each commission has determined that acquisition of the 8.5 square mile area is not essential. In fact, some studies show that returning the water to the Park from the 8.5 square mile area has more of an environmental benefit.
But just for a moment, let's set aside the science and consider the people. There are numerous families that have invested their life savings in homes and property in this area. Imagine your home for a moment. Then imagine a governmental agency that for over 10 years has said they need your land for conservation and water issues and the next year they don't. I've often said we are the most affected and least influential in the decisions that are being made for us. Imagine for a moment the emotional roller coaster you would be on if your community, your home, for over ten years was the on again, off again focus of condemnation.
Consider what that does to the value of property in that area. The value of homes that have been the focal point for investment for many who call this area home have been seriously affected by this cloud the Department of Interior has placed over the entire area. I hope their estimates of acquisition are better than their estimate of the frog pond.
I am no scientist but we continue to talk about land acquisition in the East Everglades to create a buffer zone. Why not ask to create the buffer zone inside the land area already owned by Everglades National Park. It seems that would be far less expensive.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, I hope we can count on you to make the Department of Interior accountable. We, the people of South Miami-Dade County don't have the luxury of a band of attorneys, consultants, and paid environmental organizations embarking on national letter writing campaigns. The Department of the Interior should be required to have sound and independently confirmed science in hand before they continue their siege on our community.
Mr. HANSEN. We now turn to Ibel Aguilera. Did I come close?
STATEMENT OF IBEL AGUILERA, THE UNITED PROPERTY OWNERS & FRIENDS OF THE 8.5 SQUARE MILE AREA, INC.
Ms. AGUILERA. Ibel Aguilera. That was close enough.
Mr. HANSEN. You have got the floor anyway.
Ms. AGUILERA. Mr. Chairman, I am honored just to be here today. I am here on behalf of the United Property Owners & Friends of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. This is an association that was formed right after the November 12th decision of acquiring our land. Our association represents the unwilling sellers.
There has been a lot said about who is willing and who is not a willing seller in our area. Unfortunately, I forget my glasses in the hotel room sothank you.
I would like to state for the record that lastas recent as last month, I sent out a general mailing to all the property owners in the area, not just the residences, but all the property owners. I have just had returned over 100 forms, and all of them are unwilling sellers. I would like to request the opportunity later on, in the future, to submit all these forms, plus the rest that are still out there pending, to this Committee.
Mr. HANSEN. Without objection, we will put it all in the record if that is all right.
Ms. AGUILERA. So you can judge for yourself the unwillingness of the sellers up there.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to tell this Committee, this is not a restoration issue; this is a human rights issue. As you are aware by the testimonies that were given here before, the majority of the property owners in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area are Cubans. These people came to this country in the search for freedom, in search of rights. In the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, they bought their land. They built their homes. It is been 20, 30 years for some; at this point in time, they are 60, 70 some years old. They don't feel, neither do I feel it is fair for this government to come in and unnecessarily condemn their homes or destroy their way of life for the last 20 or 30 years.
We have been coerced by the district to the point where we havewe even called the cops and filed a report against one of the district members, a copy of which I attached to my testimony. I have testimony from people that have sold, that, in their words, they can tell you, they feel they have been raped by their own government, by their own elected officials. These are not even Cubans that are living in that area. These are American families that were forced to sell because they called the district. And Mr. Sam Poole himself told them, if you don't sell now, later on we are going to condemn you. Her statement is in my testimony.
I was hoping this would not happen, but there is a lot of emotions and tensions that have been building up since November and even prior to that she is crying.
I ask of this board, consider this issue as we feel it was not the intention of the United States Congress back in 1989 when the Expansion Act was enacted to sacrifice the people of the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. I feel their orders were clear to protect the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.
The 8-1/2 Square Mile Area is a very productive area in Dade County. There is a lot of farming. There is a lot of ranch. We feel we have the American dream in the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area. However, this dream has become a nightmare since November 12, 1998.
Right after this decision, the district was acquiring land in our area. And all this land have been leased to other individuals for farming purposes. Why can't we stay on our land and farm our land? Because in the name of restoration, they are trying to take it away from us and give it to somebody else to farm it? I don't think it is fair. I am sorry.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Maybe the Committee will ask questions, and we will go back to our witness. Will that be all right?
Mr. GIBBONS. I pass on the questions and will yield back my time at this point.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Duncan.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, all I would like to do isI don't have a question. But what I would say is this:
This is so sad because the witnesses may not realize this, but this is happening all over this country. The Federal Government today owns a little over 30 percent of the land in this country, and State and local governments and quasi-governmental units own about another 20 percent, so that you have got roughly half the land in this country under some type of public ownership.
And what is disturbing, though, is that over the last 25 or 30 years, this percentage of the land that has been taken for publicby public governmental units has been growing by leaps and bounds. And these governmental units, particularly the Federal Government, but they always can rationalize or justify taking this land.
And what we are doing, we are very slowly destroying private property in this country. And if we don't wake up someday and realize that private property has been one of the real cornerstones of our prosperity, it has been something that set us apart from the former Soviet Union and places like that, and what is happening to these people, I mean, we are talking about an area that is 18,000 square miles, and today we are talking about this little time 8-1/2 square mile piece of property. But as Ms. Aguilera is showing, this really means a lot to these people.
Ms. AGUILERA. It does. It does, sir.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. And even the environmental movement should realize that the worst polluters in the world were the Socialist and Communist governments. People take better care of their own private property than is taken of property that is in public ownership.
I haven't been to this area, but I bet these people take good care of their property. It is so sad to think that a lot of these people, or most of them, are people who came from Cuba where land was confiscated and taken away from them by a Communist dictator, and now they come to the United States, a country that is supposed to be a free country, yet these people are coming all the way from south Florida to Washington, DC, to try to defend their little piece of the American dream.
The unbelievable thing is, this is happening all over this country. These liberal, left-wing, Socialist, big-government types think they can run everybody's life better than they can themselves. So they don't mind coming in and doing a really cruel thing and taking away this property. And I just think that we need to speak out against it and that it needs to stop, or at least hopefully we can slow it down a little bit.
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania? Mr. Sherwood, any comments you would like to make at this time?
Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you. I have great empathy for the folks that are having the problems there, but I think it has pretty well been done. I have nothing else to say about it.
Mr. HANSEN. Okay.
Ibel, do you want to give it another shot? We realize things like that get very close to the heart, no question about it.
Ms. AGUILERA. Especially with me. I know most of these people personally, sir. I can tell you, my next-door neighbor, 76 years old, a retired World War II veteran, an ex-fire chief for the City of Tampa. His wife died 10 years ago. She was very close to me. Her dying wish was to have her ashes spread in her backyard, and this he did. Recently he told me he wants the same thing done with him the day he dies. He has no immediate family in south Florida, so my husband and I, we are the closest he ever has in the neighborhood.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Anyways, this gentleman lost his home to Andrew. He got involved with a contractor that took part of his money. And when he went back to the county to pull his permits, he was not allowed to. They told him he had a certain amount of time within to pull his permits and so forth. Anyways, he has spent thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees, and finally he has got his rebuilding permits back.
He is right now in the middle of his construction. Dade County keeps coming every month inspecting all the construction that is going on in his home. Nobody else told him to this date that he is going to have to give up his dream.
He is rebuilding his house, the 76-year-old. How are you going to tell this old man now that because, in the name of Everglades restoration when everybody knows it is not true, they are going to condemn his property, whatever he has got built in there right now? You might as well shoot him now. It is going to kill him anyways.
And like him, there is many elderly people that have lived and have made the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area the place away from their native land. How can we tell these people who have already suffered the taking away of their homes once before in their life that this is going to happen to them again?
Now they no longer can start building a new home anywhere else. Where are they going to go where they can have their horses, their cattles, their chickens, the animals they have in their farm these days? No where in this county.
So I ask this Committee to please help us, to help us save our 8-1/2 Square Mile Area, to help us keep our dream alive. We chose this 20, 30 years ago. We were allowed to do so legally, as we were permitted to build in this area. We have suffered the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, and we were allowed to rebuild.
Now, 7 years later, we have replanted our trees, rebuilt our homes. More or less our lives are back to normal. Why in God's name do they want our properties now? They know it is not necessary for restoration. There is clear scientific proof that it is not necessary for restoration.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we ask this Committee to please intervene and help us save our community. Thank you.
Mr. HANSEN. And we thank you, Ibel. That was very good testimony.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Aguilera follows:]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 44 TO 57 HERE
Mr. HANSEN. And let me ask my colleagues if they have any further questions for this panel. The one in the chair has to watch the clock, and the rest of the folks don't have to as much, but we are almost out of time for this room.
So if you have anything burning in your bosom you want to add, I will give you another minute each or my colleagues from Tennessee and Pennsylvania if they have any further comment.
If not, excellent testimony. But I want to say to you the same as I did the last panel, we have some questions for you that we would like some written answers to the best of your ability if you would. Would that be all right?
Ms. AGUILERA. Absolutely.
Ms. LORION. Yes.
Mr. SHIVER. Yes.
[The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you so much for your testimony.
You know, as the gentleman from Tennessee pointed out, sometimes we see movements come along, and they become a little extreme; and all over America now we are seeing people get into this issue of private property, what can you take and what can't you take. And as a past city councilman, State legislator, and other things, sure, Mayor, I know what it is like. I sat in a position like yours for a few years. Sure, we have to condemn some area for a right-of-way occasionally or a waterline or whatever it may be.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But when you want to get to very sacred stuff, start talking to people's property and what they have. I think our Founding Fathers wisely put that in the Constitution, which I think, to a certain extent, has been kind of trampled upon over the years and something we should be very careful of.
The gentleman from Tennessee pointed out 30 percent of the country is owned by the Federal Government until you get to where I live, and those figures go up. My State is 73 percent. I think Mr. Gibbon's State is 90 percent. Mrs. Cubin's State is 80-something percent. So we are very, very sensitive to the Federal Government coming in and stomping on our rights.
However, there is moderation. I don't know who said moderation in all things, but whoever did, it should be scriptural, because really there is some point we can reach, some moderation in things, without some extreme application taking away our rights.
You look at our people out West, when somebody finds a slimy slug on their property, we give up 100,000 acres sometimes for it. And we say, why is this so important to us. So you are always fighting these kind of arguments.
So we take what was stated today very seriously. And I can tell you, this Committee on both sides of the political aisle feel very strong about private property rights, and we will look into this in detail. And this is just the start of what we will be doing on this issue.
With that said, this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:35 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
INSERT OFFSET FOLIOS 58 TO 82 HERE
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