South Florida Ecosystem RestorationAn Overall Strategic Plan and a Decision-Making Process Are Needed to Keep the Effort on Track Gao ID: RCED-99-121 April 22, 1999
GAO estimates that more than $1.2 billion in federal funding has been allocated from 1993 to 1999 to restore the everglades. Most of the expenditures have made by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The federal funding provided so far represents merely a down payment. No official cost projection has been done for the overall restoration effort. However, a major component--implementation of the Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study, which is intended to increase the flow of water to natural areas in South Florida while enhancing agricultural and urban water supplies--could cost an additional $9.8 billion to complete. As a result, the total tab for restoration, which is expected to take 20 years to complete, could cost upwards of $11 billion. The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a group that brings together representatives of federal, state, and local agencies and affected native American tribes, is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the initiative. However, it lacks a strategic plan that clearly lays out how the initiative will be accomplished and includes quantifiable goals and performance measures. In addition, the Task Force is a coordinating body, not a decision-making body, and is thus limited in its ability to manage and make decisions for the overall restoration effort. GAO found that even with the coordination efforts of the Task Force, two ongoing infrastructure projects that are crucial to the restoration effort are behind schedule and over budget, in part because federal and state agencies have been unable to reach agreement. Additional delays and cost overruns are likely in the future, putting the effort's overall goals in jeopardy. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: South Florida Ecosystem Restoration: An Overall Strategic Plan and a Decision-Making Process Are Needed to Keep the Effort on Track, by Victor S. Rezendes, Director of Energy, Resources, and Science Issues, before the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations. GAO/T-RCED-99-157, Apr. 22 (10 pages); and South Florida Ecosystem Restoration: A Strategic Plan and a Process to Resolve Conflicts Are Needed to Keep the Effort on Track, by Victor S. Rezendes, Director of Energy, Resources, and Science Issues, before subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Appropriations. GAO/T-RCED-99-170, Apr. 29 (10 pages).
GAO noted that: (1) on the basis of the data GAO obtained from the 5 primary federal departments and agencies participating in the initiative, GAO estimates that over $1.2 billion in federal funds was provided from FY 1993 through FY 1999; (2) the key restoration activities undertaken by the federal agencies were: (a) land acquisition; (b) the management of federally-owned facilities or natural resources, and a national marine sanctuary; (c) infrastructure projects; and (d) science-related activities; (3) over 75 percent of the federal expenditures during this 6-year period have been made by agencies within the Department of the Interior and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; (4) the federal funding provided to date represents only a down payment; (5) while no official cost projection for the total restoration effort has been made, a major component, the implementation of the Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study, referred to as the Restudy, is estimated to cost an additional $7.8 billion; (6) the Restudy is designed to substantially increase the amount of water that is delivered to natural areas while enhancing agricultural and urban water supplies; (7) according to the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force's executive director, at least $2 billion beyond the $7.8 billion will be needed to complete the restoration effort; (8) this money will be used to acquire additional lands, construct other infrastructure projects, and eradicate exotic plant species; (9) the Task Force is responsible for coordinating the participating entities' implementation of the initiative; (10) however, a strategic plan that clearly lays out how the initiative will be accomplished and includes quantifiable goals and performance measures has not yet been developed; (11) the Task Force is a coordinating body, not a decisionmaking body, and thus is limited in its ability to manage and make decisions for the overall restoration effort; (12) as GAO's review of two projects integral to the restoration effort indicates, even with coordination, the federal and state agencies involved are unable to agree on components of these projects; (13) their inability to agree has contributed to delays and cost overruns; and (14) given the scope and complexity of the initiative and the difficulties that have already been encountered, additional delays and cost overruns are likely to occur, and the participants' ability to accomplish the initiative's overall goals is at risk.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: