The State Party submitted its report on 1 February 2007, on progress achieved in implementing the corrective measures cited above. The report also gives indications on planned timeframes for the different actions. The key points are:
a) Alteration of the Everglades National Park hydrological regimes
There have been significant allocations (USD 253 million) for a range of ecosystem restoration projects in the 2007 fiscal year. These will support continued construction of the Modified Water Deliveries Project (Mod/Waters) to restore water flows into the park. The funding will also support specific restoration activities within the Everglades National Park. The US Army Corps of Engineers is continuing its efforts to increase water flows into the Park’s largest drainage basin, Shark Slough. Cost estimates to complete the remaining Mod/Waters project features have increased by USD 196 million since the 1996 status report. The State Party considers current project appropriations to be adequate to complete all three of planned corrective measures (1.1, 1.2; 1.3) by 2011.
b) Adjacent urban and agricultural growth
A series of hydrological restoration actions have been undertaken in the Taylor Slough and Eastern Panhandle watersheds to restore a more natural water flow regime through Taylor Slough and into North Eastern Florida Bay. The Corps revised C-111 plan and recommended a series of actions to maintain the currently authorised levels of flood protection for adjacent agricultural areas, while limiting groundwater losses from the property’s wetlands. By 2006, the majority of the C-111 project features were completed, while construction of the central detention area was delayed by a required land exchange between the National Parks Services (NPS) and the South Florida Water Management District. This land exchange was completed in 2006, and all remaining corrective measures (2.1; 2.2; 2.3) are scheduled for completion by November 2011.
The majority of the park is within the Miami-Dade County. Population growth rates have been estimated at more than 3% within Southern Miami-Dade, with an anticipated 600,000 additional people by 2025 and 1.2million by 2050. To date intensive residential development has largely been confined within an Urban Development Boundary (UDB). The current plan is to place all of the projected new dwelling units inside the UDB and 60% of the new dwelling units within the UDB after 2026, in order to preserve the County’s remaining wetlands, farmlands and open space. These proposals are included within a South Miami-Dade Watershed Study, which is scheduled for completion in 2007.
It is noted that the development of the Watershed Study is an important initiative. IUCN recommends that the UDB not be expanded, and that recommendations be adopted which protect the UDB in Miami-Dade County and which minimise the impact of urban growth pressures in Southwest Florida on the Everglades National Park. Maximising open space and farmland adjacent to the Everglades National Park is important, as this will reduce the pressure to further lower canal water levels, thus better protecting the wetlands and natural habitats within the park.
c) Agriculture and urban runoff phosphorous limits
Interim and long term phosphorous limits have been established for water flowing into Shark River Slough and the Taylor Slough/Coastal Basins of Everglades National Park, with long term compliance required by 31 December 2006. Regular monitoring activities and reporting continue to document a general trend of reductions in phosphorous levels for waters discharged into the Everglades. Water quality presently entering Taylor Slough and the coastal basins (corrective measure 3.1) is well below the long term limit. However, recent data indicate that inflows to Everglades National Park in Shark River Slough are extremely close to or exceed the long term phosphorous limits.
Actions to improve the quality of water entering the Everglades National Park, particularly water entering the Shark River Slough, should be continued.
d) Protection and management of Florida Bay
Expanding development along the lower east coast of Florida has led to massive diversions of storm water into the Atlantic Ocean, and away from the southern Everglades. These diversions reduced fresh water inflows to Florida Bay resulting in increased salinity, especially close to the near shore embayment of central Florida Bay. Plans to increase water deliveries to Florida Bay and improving the quality, timing and distribution of flows into the Bay are focused on water management improvements to Taylor Slough. These plans are focussed around completion of on-going C-111 projects (4.1; 4.2), which is expected by 2012.
IUCN recommends that the impacts of these activities on the water quality and salinity in Florida Bay continue to be carefully monitored. IUCN also notes the need for continuing attention to managing and reducing the number and impact of boaters in Florida Bay, within the park’s current general management planning process.
It is noted that progress is being achieved in relation to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) adopted in 2000 and in implementing the corrective measures adopted as benchmarks at the 2006 World Heritage Committee. CERP is the world’s largest environmental restoration project and aims to re-establish natural water flows to the greater Everglades ecosystem. It will take the next 30-40 years to fully implement and has a currently estimated cost of USD 10.5 billion. This figure does not include a separate USD 1.1 billion budget for the clean-up of pollution in the Everglades.
It will be important to continue to monitor the impact of the restoration activities on the status of OUV of the property, including key species in the Everglades National Park, such as populations of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, the wood stork and the manatee. Development of benchmarks related to the OUV should be used to assess the effectiveness of achievement of the corrective measures for this property.