click on any picture to enlarge
The Everglades Agricultural Area or EAA was built by removing water from the land, building canals to channel the water to farms and other places and building levees around Lake Okeechobee so the water would not overflow its banks and flow south as it naturally did. Twenty Seven Percent of the Everglades was taken away from the huge wetland system and a barrier was established between the northern and southern Everglades which deprived the lower part of the national park of its vital flow of water.
The destruction and harmful alteration of the Everglades became clear to state leaders including then governor Lawton Chiles in 1995 that the changes to the wetlands in central and southern Florida was lowering the quality of life for millions of people, impacting the tourism business and threatening future water supplies to people on the east and west coasts. A new plan called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or (CERP) was developed to stop the destruction of the Everglades and restore parts of the land to wetlands again. The new plan which would become the largest environmental restoration plan in the United States was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 2000. Over $2 billion dollars have been spent on this plan already but the funds to continue restoring the Everglades have begun to dry up because of budgetary problems of the U.S. and a change of leadership in Congress.
Work in still continuing on many projects in the CERP plan and one of the bright spots is the work on the Kissimmee River and floodplain which moves the majority of water from near Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Parts of the river have been restored to a winding river and floodplain and has restored nearby land into healthy wetlands. Much more work needs to be done to fix the decades of destruction that was done to the Everglades and wetlands of Florida. The Everglades Foundation is an organization that is watching and helping the efforts of the restoration of the Everglades. They have started a competition called the Barley Prize which will award millions of dollars to the group of scientists or people who can successfully remove phosphorous from the water in the Everglades. There is plenty of information about the efforts to improve the health of the Everglades on the websites of the Everglades Foundation and the South Florida Water Management District. There is also a good video which summarizes the efforts of the Everglades cleanup.