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Posted 9/1/2015

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By Jenn Miller
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy signed the Record of Decision for the Central Everglades Planning Project on Aug. 31, 2015, signifying the completion of the final administrative review for the ecosystem restoration project’s report.

 The Central Everglades Planning Project, also known as CEPP, is the culmination of a three-year planning effort involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, the South Florida Water Management District and other representatives from all levels of government, stakeholder groups, and the public at large.  The schedule for this study was driven by the Administration’s commitment to Everglades restoration as signified by the President’s inclusion of CEPP within his “We Can’t Wait” initiative. 

"Achieving this milestone validates the work of the Jacksonville District team," said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander. "Today we celebrate this important approval that aids our moving forward in the comprehensive effort to restore the central part of America's Everglades."

CEPP combines several components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and is designed to capture water that is currently being discharged to tide and direct additional flows to the Everglades and Florida Bay.  The project optimizes the use of public lands to move additional water to the south.

“The latest progress on CEPP reflects the continuing commitment between the Corps, the District and all the stakeholders who share the goal of restoring the Everglades,” said Daniel O’Keefe, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board. “CEPP will play an important role in allowing more water flow to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay while benefiting the coastal estuaries.”

The Corps submitted the final report for administrative review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works in December 2014.  With administrative review now complete, the report will be transmitted to Congress for authorization and subsequent appropriations.

"The signed Record of Decision signifies the completion of the final checkpoint in the report's review process,” said Howard Gonzales, Jr., Chief of the Jacksonville District’s Ecosystem Branch. “With this signed document, we are one step closer to making these plans a reality."

The Corps prepared the CEPP planning document using a pilot process designed to reduce the overall time allocated for a study of this magnitude.  In prior years, plan formulation and review may have taken six years or longer.  The CEPP process was completed in half that time.

"Momentum remains strong in our Everglades restoration efforts,” said Gonzales.  “The Central Everglades Planning Project is a vital component in our restoration efforts and I am extremely proud of the collaborative effort that was undertaken to get us to where we are today."

The Corps’ planning process requires robust public participation to ensure stakeholder involvement, understanding, and support.  For the Central Everglades Planning Project alone, 74 public engagements were conducted within 29 months.

"The dedicated and collaborative efforts undertaken by the Corps, partnering federal and state agencies and stakeholders was pivotal in the completion of the Central Everglades Planning Project,” said Kim Taplin, Central Everglades Branch Chief for the Jacksonville District. “This is not just a success for the district, but for everyone who participated in the process."

CEPP was implemented successfully as part of the Corps modernized planning process. Given the size and complexity of this project, the implementation period will occur over multiple years and the project is expected to be implemented in phases.  The implementation period could range from six to26 years depending on funding.

Additional information on the Central Everglades Planning Project available at: http://bit.ly/CEPP_USACE