Crist promises Everglades push

Published: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 11:03 p.m.

ORLANDO — Gov. Charlie Crist promised to revive a faltering $10.5 billion state and federal partnership to restore the Everglades, saying he was working with Florida's congressional delegation to get more U.S. funding.

"I want you to know I am deeply committed to restoring the Everglades ecosystem," Crist said, speaking by phone Saturday to about 200 people at the annual Everglades Coalition conference. "I'm a Republican but I got to tell you, I care so deeply about protecting her…I'll never let you down, I promise."

Crist said he was working with the congressional delegation to get the federal government to resume its commitment to providing more than $5 billion to the restoration project.

Congress became a 50-50 partner with the state on its 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000, but critics say federal lawmakers have not been chipping in.

Under the 2000 agreement, the federal government was supposed to provide $200 million a year for Everglades restoration, but to date, Congress has appropriated less than $300 million. In contrast, the state has budgeted $2.1 billion with another $1.2 billion to be committed in the next six months.

The project is the largest wetlands restoration effort in the world. The state has acquired more than 210,000 acres for restoration, including some 36,000 acres of man-made wetlands that clean water through natural marsh filters.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson also told the group he is pushing federal lawmakers to deliver the promised money.

"We can't wait any longer," said Nelson, D-Fla. "Each day we delay, the nation loses more of one of its natural wonders."

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