Students on a field trip at the Refuge
Teams are the name of the Everglades restoration game. Some of the best scientists in the nation are working in cooperation to tackle what is known as the grandest ecological restoration effort in the history of the world -- the Florida Everglades. One important component of restoration involves water quality. The 1988 Everglades water quality lawsuit was settled in 1991, and a Consent Decree was filed in federal court in 1992. The State of Florida , through the South Florida Water Management District, is implementing the terms of the Consent Decree, which includes the application of Best Management Practices to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural lands (mostly sugarcane and vegetable production) south of Lake Okeechobee, and the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) intended to reduce phosphorous concentrations in stormwater runoff to at least 50 parts per billion (ppb) by 2003 and down to more stringent levels by 2006. Phosphorous is the nutrient of greatest concern, and the State of Florida has established a numeric water quality criterion for phosphorus in the Everglades of 10 ppb total phosphorus. Research continues to examine ways to optimize phosphorus removal using these STAs. The Everglades Forever Act passed in 1994 and amended in 2003 extends this commitment to cleaning up and restoring all of the Everglades, not just the Federal areas.
The National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are two of the federal principals in the Consent Decree. Both agencies are within the Department of Interior and have established a team approach that targets the protection of the natural resources under their jurisdiction. The DOI Everglades Program Team, established in June, 2000, provides the Department of Interior and its affiliates with increased scientific and technical capacity to assess the potential impacts of south Florida restoration efforts on the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park, the two "book-ends" of the remnant Everglades. The DOI team monitors and evaluates progress made, tracks and interprets research projects, provides scientific advice, publishes scientific information, assures progress in meeting obligations and responsibilities under the Consent Decree, and provides direct input to the Department of Justice, DOI counsel, and Park and Refuge decision-makers. Two critical facets that the Team addresses are the new technologies that will help achieve the lowest phosphorous levels and how to measure and monitor compliance.
The Team consists of highly respected senior scientists. The Team is physically located at the Refuge in an office facility provided by the FWS. The Team consists of: Dr. Nick Aumen, Aquatic Ecologist and Team Leader (NPS); Dr. Mike Waldon, Senior Hydrologist (FWS); and Dr. Donatto Surratt, Biologist and GIS Specialist (NPS). These individuals are familiar names and faces to those that follow Everglades’s restoration issues and they welcome your input and suggestions.