oversight

South Florida Ecosystem Restoration: Improved Science Coordination Needed to Increase the Likelihood of Success

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-26.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                             United States General Accounting Office

GAO                          Testimony
                             Before the Subcommittee on Interior
                             and Related Agencies, Committee on
                             Appropriations, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST
Wednesday, March 26, 2003    SOUTH FLORIDA
                             ECOSYSTEM
                             RESTORATION
                             Improved Science
                             Coordination Needed to
                             Increase the Likelihood
                             of Success
                             Statement of Barry T. Hill, Director
                             Natural Resources and Environment




GAO-03-518T
                                                 March 26, 2003


                                                 SOUTH FLORIDA ECOSYSTEM
                                                 RESTORATION
Highlights of GAO-03-518T, a report to the
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member,
                                                 Improved Science Coordination Needed
Subcommittee on Interior and Related
Agencies, House Appropriations
                                                 to Increase the Likelihood of Success
Committee




Restoration of the South Florida                 From fiscal years 1993 through 2002, eight federal agencies and one state
ecosystem is a complex, long-term                agency collectively spent $576 million to conduct mission-related scientific
federal and state undertaking that               research, monitoring, and assessment in support of the restoration of the
requires the development of                      South Florida ecosystem. With this funding, which was almost evenly split
extensive scientific information.                between the federal agencies and the state agency, scientists have made
GAO was asked to report on the
funds spent on scientific activities
                                                 progress in developing information—including information on the past,
for restoration, the gaps that exist             present, and future flow of water in the ecosystem—for restoration.
in scientific information, and the
extent to which scientific activities            While some scientific information has been obtained and understanding
are being coordinated.                           of the ecosystem improved, key gaps remain in scientific information
                                                 needed for restoration. If not addressed quickly, these gaps could hinder
                                                 the success of restoration. One particularly important gap is the lack of
                                                 information regarding the amount and risk of contaminants, such as
To improve the coordination of
                                                 fertilizers and pesticides, in water and sediment throughout the ecosystem.
scientific activities for the South
Florida ecosystem restoration
initiative, GAO recommends that                  The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force—comprised of
as chair of the South Florida                    federal, state, local, and tribal entities—is responsible for coordinating the
Ecosystem Restoration Task Force                 South Florida ecosystem restoration initiative. The Task Force is also
(Task Force), the Secretary of the               responsible for coordinating scientific activities for restoration, but has yet
Interior                                         to establish an effective means of doing so. In 1997, it created the SCT to
•    clarify the plans and                       coordinate the science activities of the many agencies participating in
     documents the Science                       restoration. However, the Task Force did not give the SCT clear direction
     Coordination Team (SCT)                     to carry out its responsibilities in support of the Task Force and restoration.
     needs to complete and the                   Furthermore, unlike the full-time science coordinating bodies created for
     time frames for completing
                                                 other restoration efforts, the SCT functions as a voluntary group with no
     them;
•    evaluate staffing needs of the              full-time and few part-time staff. Without an effective means to coordinate
     SCT and allocate sufficient                 restoration, the Task Force cannot ensure that restoration decisions are
     staff to carry out its duties; and          based on sound scientific information.
•    take measures to improve the
     working relationship between                Past, Present, and Future Flow of Water in South Florida
     the Task Force and the SCT.

In commenting on the draft report,
the Department of the Interior
agreed with the premises of the
report that scientific activities need
to be better coordinated and that
the SCT’s role needs to be clarified.
Interior stated that the Task Force
would ultimately review GAO’s
recommendations and approve
actions, as warranted.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-518T.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Barry T. Hill at
(202) 512-3841.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

The South Florida ecosystem restoration initiative seeks to restore the
vast, mixed wetland habitat of South Florida—including the Everglades.
Restoration efforts are expected to cost $15 billion and take as long as
50 years to complete, and the ecological effects of these efforts may not
be known until many years thereafter. Because of the long-term, complex
nature of the initiative, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force (Task Force)—the group of federal, state, local, and tribal entities
that Congress formally established in 1996 to coordinate the restoration
efforts—determined that restoration decisions should be based on sound
scientific information. To coordinate scientific activities for the initiative,
in 1997, the Task Force created the Science Coordination Team (SCT).1
Because of the urgency to move forward with the initiative, complete
scientific information may not be available when restoration decisions
must be made. Recognizing that scientific information may be incomplete
and uncertain, the Task Force has endorsed “adaptive management.” This
approach requires scientific information to be updated throughout the
restoration and provides flexibility to make changes to restoration
projects and plans as needed.

The Members of this Subcommittee have had a long-standing interest in
the restoration initiative and recognize that science plays a critical role in
the success of restoration. Multiple federal and state agencies that are
involved in the initiative develop scientific information for restoration.
These agencies conduct scientific research, monitoring, and assessments
of environmental and other conditions in support of their individual
agency goals, mandates, and missions. We are here to discuss our report
being released today on (1) federal and state agency funding for scientific
activities related to the restoration and the progress made in developing
scientific information for the restoration, (2) gaps in scientific information
needed for restoration, and (3) coordination of scientific information
for restoration.2




1
 In 1993, the Task Force—which at the time was only a federal group—formed a Science
Subgroup; this team was subsequently reformed as the Science Coordination Team.
2
 U.S. General Accounting Office, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration: Task Force Needs
to Improve Science Coordination to Increase the Likelihood of Success, GAO-03-345,
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 18, 2003).



Page 1                                         GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
          Federal and state agencies have already committed considerable funds to
Summary   develop scientific information to support South Florida ecosystem
          restoration decisions, a trend that is expected to continue. Since 1993,
          eight federal agencies and one key state agency spent $576 million to
          develop scientific information in support of the restoration initiative.3 The
          eight federal agencies spent a total of $273 million of which, the largest
          federal participant—the Department of the Interior—spent $139 million. In
          addition, the State of Florida’s South Florida Water Management District
          (District) spent over $303 million on scientific activities related to
          restoration. With this federal and state funding, agencies have made
          progress in developing scientific information and tools necessary for
          restoration.

          Although agencies have developed some of the information that is needed
          to facilitate restoration efforts, key gaps remain, that if not addressed
          quickly, could hinder the success of particular projects as well as affect
          the health of the entire ecosystem. One particularly important gap is the
          lack of information regarding the amount and risk of contaminants, such
          as fertilizers and pesticides, in water and sediment throughout the
          ecosystem. If this information is not available, scientists cannot determine
          whether fish and other organisms are being harmed by these contaminants
          or whether the redistribution of water will introduce potentially harmful
          contaminants to parts of the ecosystem that are relatively undisturbed.

          Because multiple agencies conduct scientific activities for a variety of
          purposes under the restoration initiative, coordination is necessary to
          ensure that gaps in information are addressed and that important scientific
          information is synthesized and made available to managers. However, the
          Task Force has yet to establish an effective means of coordination. The
          SCT—the group created by the Task Force to coordinate scientific
          information for the restoration—has been limited in carrying out its
          coordination responsibilities by a number of factors. First, the SCT has not
          been given clear direction on what it is expected to accomplish. Second, it
          has no processes to ensure that key management issues that need to be
          addressed in science planning are identified or that critical science issues
          that require synthesis to provide input into restoration decisions are




          3
           All funds have been adjusted to 2002 dollars. Throughout this report, we refer
          to fiscal years unless otherwise noted. Both the federal and South Florida Water
          Management District fiscal years run from October through September.



          Page 2                                            GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
             prioritized. Finally, the SCT lacks the resources it needs to adequately
             carry out its broad responsibilities.

             Until the Task Force addresses these limitations, the coordination of
             scientific activities is not likely to materially improve. The SCT will
             continue to be limited in its capacity to help ensure that (1) scientific
             gaps are filled, (2) progress toward restoration is monitored, and
             (3) adjustments to restoration projects and plans are made as needed.
             Without effective coordination of scientific activities, the Task Force has
             scant assurance that the scientific information needed to make key
             restoration decisions will be made available, thus decreasing the
             likelihood that restoration of the South Florida ecosystem will be
             successful. Although we found poor coordination of scientific activities
             and gaps in scientific information for restoration, we are not advocating
             the initiative be delayed. Rather, we believe that restoration projects and
             plans should move forward, given the Task Force’s commitment to
             adaptively manage the restoration, and are therefore making
             recommendations to improve coordination. Specifically, we are
             recommending that the Secretary of the Interior, as chair of the South
             Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, clarify the broad
             responsibilities of the SCT and evaluate the SCT’s staffing needs, ensuring
             that the SCT has sufficient resources to carry out its responsibilities. In
             commenting on a draft of our report, the Department of the Interior—as
             chair of the Task Force—largely agreed with our recommendations, but
             stated that the Task Force itself will ultimately make the decision on the
             actions taken to address these recommendations.


             The South Florida ecosystem encompasses a broad range of natural,
Background   urban, and agricultural areas surrounding the remnant Everglades. Before
             human intervention, freshwater in the ecosystem flowed south from Lake
             Okeechobee to Florida Bay in a broad, slow-moving sheet, creating the
             mix of wetlands that form the ecosystem. These wetlands, interspersed
             with dry areas, created habitat for abundant wildlife, fish, and birds.

             The South Florida ecosystem is also home to 6.5 million people and
             supports a large agricultural, tourist, and industrial economy. To facilitate
             development in the area, in 1948, Congress authorized the U.S. Army
             Corps of Engineers to build the Central and Southern Florida Project—a
             system of more than 1,700 miles of canals and levees and 16 major pump
             stations—to prevent flooding and intrusion of saltwater into freshwater
             aquifers on the Atlantic coast. The engineering changes that resulted from
             the project, and subsequent agricultural, industrial, and urban

             Page 3                                    GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                                       development, reduced the Everglades ecosystem to about half its original
                                       size, causing detrimental effects to fish, bird, and other wildlife habitats
                                       and to water quality. Figure 1 shows the historic and current flows of the
                                       Everglades ecosystem as well as the proposed restored flow.

Figure 1: The Everglades—Past, Present, and Future




                                       Page 4                                    GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                                       Efforts to reverse the detrimental effects of development on the ecosystem
                                       led to the formal establishment of the Task Force, authorized by the Water
                                       Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996. The Task Force, charged
                                       with coordinating and facilitating the restoration of the ecosystem,
                                       established three overall goals to:

                                   •   Get the water right: restore more natural hydrologic functions to the
                                       ecosystem while providing adequate water supplies and flood control. The
                                       goal is to deliver the right amount of water, of the right quality, to the right
                                       places at the right times.
                                   •   Restore, protect, and preserve the natural system: restore lost and
                                       altered habitats and change current land use patterns. Growth and
                                       development have displaced and disconnected natural habitats and the
                                       spread of invasive species has caused sharp declines in native plant and
                                       animal populations.
                                   •   Foster the compatibility of the built and natural systems: find
                                       development patterns that are complementary to ecosystem restoration
                                       and to a restored natural system.

                                       Figure 2 shows the relationship of the agencies participating in
                                       restoration, the Task Force, and the three restoration goals.

Figure 2: The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Membership and Goals




                                       Page 5                                       GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                        Because of the complexity of the ecosystem and efforts underway to
                        restore it, and the urgency to begin the long-term ecosystem restoration
                        effort, not all of the scientific information that is needed is available to
                        make restoration decisions. As a result, scientists will continually need to
                        develop information and restoration decision makers will continually need
                        to review it. According to the Task Force, scientists participating in
                        restoration are expected to identify and determine what information is
                        needed to fill gaps in scientific knowledge critical to meeting restoration
                        objectives and provide managers with updated scientific information for
                        critical restoration decisions. Generally, decisions about restoration
                        projects and plans have been—and will continue to be—made by the
                        agencies participating in the restoration initiative. To provide agency
                        managers and the Task Force with updated scientific information, the
                        Task Force has endorsed adaptive management, a process that requires
                        key tools, such as models, continued research, and monitoring plans.

                        Federal and state agencies spent $576 million from fiscal years 1993
Federal and State       through 2002 to conduct mission-related scientific research, monitoring,
Agencies Spent          and assessment in support of the restoration of the South Florida
                        ecosystem. Eight federal departments and agencies spent $273 million
$576 Million on         for scientific activities, with the Department of the Interior spending
Scientific Activities   $139 million (about half) of the funds. The level of federal expenditures,
                        which increased by over 50 percent in 1997, has since remained relatively
for the South Florida   constant. The South Florida Water Management District—the state agency
Ecosystem and           most heavily involved in scientific activities for restoration—spent
Made Progress in        $303 million from 1993 through 2002. The District’s expenditures have
                        increased steadily since 1993, with significant increases in 2000 and 2002.
Some Areas              Figure 3 shows the total federal and state expenditures for scientific
                        activities related to restoration over the last decade.




                        Page 6                                   GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
Figure 3: Federal and State Expenditures for Scientific Activities for South Florida Restoration,
Fiscal Years 1993 through 2002




                                          Eight federal agencies are involved in scientific activities for the
                                          restoration: the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey,
                                          National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian
                                          Affairs; the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric
                                          Administration; the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research
                                          Service; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and the Environmental
                                          Protection Agency.

                                          Within the Department of the Interior, four agencies spent $139 million on
                                          scientific activities. The U.S. Geological Survey spent over half of the
                                          Interior funding, or $77 million, primarily on its Placed-Based Studies
                                          Program, which provides information, data, and models to other agencies
                                          to support decisions for ecosystem restoration and management. The

                                          Page 7                                          GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
National Park Service spent about $48 million for the Critical Ecosystem
Studies Initiative (CESI), a program begun in 1997 to accelerate research
to provide scientific information for the restoration initiative. The National
Park Service used CESI funding to support research (1) to characterize the
ecosystem’s predrainage and current conditions and (2) to identify
indicators for monitoring the success of restoration in Everglades National
Park, other parks, and public lands and to develop models and tools to
assess the effects of water projects on these natural lands. Of the
remaining Interior funding, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of
Indian Affairs spent $10 million and $3 million, respectively.

Four agencies spent the other federal funds—$134 million. The Corps
of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
spent approximately $37 million each, primarily on research activities.
Two other federal agencies—the Agricultural Research Service and the
Environmental Protection Agency—spent the remaining $60 million in
federal funds.

In addition to the $273 million spent by federal agencies, the State of
Florida’s South Florida Water Management District provided $303 million
for such activities from 1993 to 2002. The District spent much of its
funding on scientific activities related to water projects in line with its
major responsibility to manage and operate the Central and Southern
Florida Project and water resources in the ecosystem.

With these federal and state expenditures, scientists have made some
progress in developing scientific information and adaptive management
tools. In particular, scientists now better understand the historic and
current hydrological conditions in the ecosystem and developed models
that allow them to forecast the effects of water management alternatives
on the ecosystem. Scientists also made significant progress in developing
information on the sources, transformations, and fate of mercury—a
contaminant that affects water quality and the health of birds, animals, and
humans—in the South Florida ecosystem. Specifically, scientists
determined that atmospheric sources account for greater than 95 percent
of the mercury that is added to the ecosystem. In addition, scientists made
progress in developing (1) a method that uses a natural predator to control
Melaleuca, an invasive species, and (2) techniques to reduce high levels of
nutrients—primarily phosphorus—in the ecosystem.




Page 8                                    GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                     While scientists made progress in developing scientific information, they
Gaps Remain in       also identified significant gaps in scientific information and adaptive
the Scientific       management tools that, if not addressed in the near future, will hinder the
                     overall success of the restoration effort. We reviewed 10 critical
Information Needed   restoration projects and plans and discussed the scientific information
for Restoration      needs remaining for these projects with scientists and project managers.
                     On the basis of our review, we identified three types of gaps in scientific
                     information: (1) gaps that threaten systemwide restoration if they are not
                     addressed; (2) gaps that threaten the success of particular restoration
                     projects if they are not addressed; and (3) gaps in information and tools
                     that will prevent restoration officials from using adaptive management to
                     pursue restoration goals.

                     An example of a gap that could hinder systemwide restoration is
                     information on contaminants, such as fertilizers and pesticides. Scientists
                     are concerned that the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides—which are
                     transported by water and soil and are deposited in sediments—near
                     natural areas in South Florida increases the discharge of chemical
                     compounds into these areas. Contaminants are absorbed by organisms
                     such as aquatic insects, other invertebrates, and fish that live in the water
                     and sediment, affecting the survival and reproduction of these organisms
                     and those that feed on them. Scientists need information on the amount of
                     contaminants that could be discharged into the environment, the amounts
                     that persist in water and sediment, and the risks faced by organisms living
                     in areas with contaminants—even low levels of contaminants on a long-
                     term basis. If this information is not available, scientists cannot determine
                     whether contaminants harm fish and other organisms or whether the
                     redistribution of water will introduce potentially harmful contaminants to
                     parts of the ecosystem that are relatively undisturbed.

                     An example of a gap that could hinder the progress of a specific project is
                     information needed to complete the Modified Water Delivery project,
                     which has been ongoing for many years and has been delayed primarily
                     because of land acquisition conflicts. The Modified Water Delivery project
                     and a related project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
                     are expected, among other purposes, to increase the amount of water
                     running through the eastern part of Everglades National Park and restore




                     Page 9                                    GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                        the “ridge and slough” habitat.4 However, scientists identified the need for
                        continued work to understand the role of flowing water in the creation of
                        ridge and slough habitat. If the information is not developed, the project
                        designs may be delayed or inadequate, forcing scientists and project
                        managers to spend time redesigning projects or making unnecessary
                        modifications to those already built.

                        An example of a gap in key tools needed for adaptive management is the
                        lack of mathematical models that would allow scientists to simulate
                        aspects of the ecosystem and better understand how the ecosystem
                        responds to restoration actions. Scientists identified the need for several
                        important models including models for Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and
                        systemwide vegetation. Without such tools, the process of adaptive
                        management will be hindered because scientists and managers will be less
                        able to monitor and assess key indicators of restoration and evaluate the
                        effects created by particular restoration actions.


                        The Water Resources Development Act of 1996 requires the Task Force
The Restoration         to coordinate scientific research for South Florida restoration; however,
Initiative Lacks        the Task Force has not established an effective means to do so,
                        diminishing assurance that key scientific information will be developed
an Effective Means to   and available to fill gaps and support restoration decisions. The SCT’s
Coordinate Scientific   main responsibilities are planning scientific activities for restoration,
                        ensuring the development of a monitoring plan, synthesizing scientific
Activities              information, and conducting science conferences and workshops on major
                        issues such as invasive species and sustainable agriculture. As the
                        restoration has proceeded, other groups have been created to manage
                        scientific activities and information for particular programs or issues, but
                        these groups are more narrowly focused than the SCT. These groups and a
                        more detailed discussion of their individual purposes appear in appendix I.




                        4
                          This habitat contains slightly elevated, north-south ridges dominated by sawgrass,
                        interspersed with sloughs, which are open water areas with sparse vegetation. It may also
                        have “tree islands,” which have woody vegetation more suited to dry areas than wetlands
                        and serve as important habitat for some species. High water levels have destroyed many
                        tree islands, areas that scientists and others seek to restore.



                        Page 10                                          GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
    Although the Task Force created the SCT as a science coordination group,
    it established the group with several organizational limitations,
    contributing to the SCT’s inability to accomplish several important
    functions. Specifically, the Task Force did not:

•   Provide specific planning requirements, including requirements for a
    science plan or comprehensive monitoring plan. A science plan would
    (1) facilitate coordination of the multiple agency science plans and
    programs, (2) identify key gaps in scientific information and tools,
    (3) prioritize scientific activities needed to fill such gaps, and
    (4) recommend agencies with expertise to fund and conduct work to fill
    these gaps. In addition, a comprehensive monitoring plan would support
    the evaluation of restoration activities. This plan would identify measures
    and indicators of a restored ecosystem—for all three goals of
    restoration—and would provide scientists with a key tool to implement
    adaptive management.
•   Establish processes that (1) provide management input for science
    planning and (2) identify and prioritize scientific issues for the SCT to
    address in its synthesis reports. Scientists and managers have both noted
    the need for an effective process that allows the Task Force to identify
    significant restoration management issues or questions that scientific
    activities need to address. In addition, a process used to select issues for
    synthesis reports needs to be transparent to members of the SCT and the
    Task Force and needs to facilitate the provision of a credible list of issues
    that the SCT needs to address in its synthesis reports. One way that other
    scientific groups involved in restoration efforts, such as the Chesapeake
    Bay effort, address transparency and credibility is the use an advisory
    board to provide an independent review of the scientific plans, reports,
    and issues.
•   Provide resources for carrying out its responsibilities. Only two
    agencies—the U.S. Geological Survey and the South Florida Water
    Management District—have allocated some staff time for SCT duties. In
    comparison, leaders of other large ecosystem restoration efforts—the San
    Francisco Bay and Chesapeake Bay area efforts—have recognized that
    significant resources are required to coordinate science for such efforts.
    These scientists and managers stated that their coordination groups have
    full-time leadership (an executive director or chief scientist), several full-
    time staff to coordinate agencies’ science efforts and develop plans and
    reports, and administrative staff to support functions.

    To improve the coordination of scientific activities for the South Florida
    ecosystem restoration initiative, we recommended in our report—released
    today—that the Secretary of the Interior, as chair of the Task Force, take
    several actions to strengthen the SCT. First, the plans and documents to be


    Page 11                                    GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
                  produced by the SCT should be specified, along with time frames for
                  completing them. Second, a process should be established to provide Task
                  Force input into planning for scientific activities. Third, a process—such
                  as independent advisory board review—should be established to prioritize
                  the issues requiring synthesis of scientific information. Finally, an
                  assessment of the SCT’s resource needs should be made and sufficient
                  staff resources should be allocated to SCT efforts. In commenting on a
                  draft of our report, the Department of the Interior agreed with the
                  premises of our report that scientific activities for restoration need to be
                  better coordinated and the SCT’s responsibilities need to be clarified.
                  However, Interior noted that the Task Force itself will ultimately need to
                  agree on the actions necessary to strengthen the SCT. Although Interior
                  agreed to coordinate the comments of the Task Force agencies, it could
                  not do so because this would require the public disclosure of the
                  draft report.

                  Mr. Chairman, this concludes my formal statement. If you or other
                  Members of the Subcommittee have any questions, I will be pleased to
                  answer them.


                  For further information on this testimony, please contact Barry T. Hill at
Contact and       (202) 512-3841. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony
Acknowledgments   included Susan Iott, Chet Janik, Beverly Peterson, and Shelby Stephan.




                  Page 12                                  GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
Appendix I: Groups Responsible for
Coordinating Scientific Activities for the
South Florida Ecosystem Restoration
                                        The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (Task Force) and
                                        participating agencies have created several groups with responsibilities for
                                        various scientific activities. One of these teams—the Science Coordination
                                        Team (SCT) created by the Task Force—is the only group responsible for
                                        coordinating restoration science activities that relate to all three of the
                                        Task Force’s restoration goals (see fig. 4).

Figure 4: Groups Responsible for Coordination of South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Science




                                        Other teams that have been created with responsibility for scientific
                                        activities include the Restoration Coordination and Verification
                                        (RECOVER) program teams, the Multi-Species Ecosystem Recovery
                                        Implementation Team, the Noxious Exotic Weed Task Team, and the
                                        Committee on Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem
                                        (CROGEE). As shown in figure 4, each of these teams is responsible for
                                        scientific activities related to specific aspects of restoration.

                                        First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water
                                        Management District created the RECOVER program to help implement
                                        their Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which is a conceptual

                                        Page 13                                     GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration
           plan for improving the quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water
           in the South Florida ecosystem. The plan will primarily help to achieve the
           first restoration goal to restore the flow of water in the ecosystem but will
           also help to restore wetland habitats affected by water management—part
           of the second restoration goal. The program is responsible for assessing,
           monitoring, and evaluating progress in implementing the plan. As part of
           this responsibility, the RECOVER program teams are to ensure that
           scientific information is available to make decisions on the effects of the
           plan on the ecosystem.

           Second, the Multi-Species Ecosystem Recovery Implementation Team
           (MERIT) is a multiagency, multiparty implementation team created to help
           implement the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multi-Species Restoration
           Plan, which is to recover species that are threatened or endangered under
           the federal Endangered Species Act. MERIT is responsible for identifying
           and prioritizing actions that can be taken to help recover 68 threatened
           and endangered species in South Florida.1

           Third, to coordinate and implement scientific information on invasive
           species, the Task Force created a team called the Noxious Exotic Weed
           Task Team, which has written a strategy to coordinate the actions of
           multiple agencies in South Florida to deal with invasive plants. The Task
           Force plans to create another team to address invasive animals.

           Finally, the Task Force worked with the National Academy of Sciences to
           form the CROGEE, which is responsible for providing the Task Force with
           independent scientific and technical reviews for several elements of the
           restoration, including restoration of marine areas and ecological
           indicators. The CROGEE was created in 1999 and existed prior to the
           passage of WRDA of 2000, which authorizes the creation of an
           independent scientific group to review progress toward achieving the
           goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and to assess and
           report to Congress on the ecological indicators and other measures of
           progress in the plan. The Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the
           Interior, and the Governor of Florida plan to jointly establish the
           independent scientific review provisions of WRDA 2000 by entering into a
           5-year contract with the National Academy of Sciences.


           1
             Currently, 69 plant and animal species that are native to the ecosystem have
           been federally listed as threatened or endangered. Sixty-eight of these species were
           listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and one was listed by the National Oceanic and
           Atmospheric Administration.



(360303)   Page 14                                           GAO-03-518T South Florida Restoration