The future, or perhaps fate, of Everglades National Park will be the main topic at a four-day conference the Everglades Coalition opens Thursday at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort and Marina in Stuart, Florida.
A key question likely to surface during the 21st annual conference will be why Congress has not released its share of funds necessary to move forward the $10.5 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that Congress passed back in 2000.
The conference promises to touch on a wide array of issues critical to the health of Everglades National Park. How will global warming impact the ecosystem? Can enough water be identified, and captured, to preserve the park’s watery ecosystem? Will panthers return to the park?
Another hot topic to be discussed is the science behind the restoration work. Kevin Henderson of the St. Lucie River Initiative told the Palm Beach Post that “the biggest hot-button issue is going to be recognition that there are enough flaws in the original plan that something needs to be done.” Those “flaws” Henderson refers to touch on whether a plan to use more than 300 deep wells to store 32 trillion gallons of water will actually work.
Among those scheduled to appear is National Park Service Director Fran Mainella. Whether she’ll bring any answers to the funding question remains to be seen.