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Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) Foundation today criticized Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's attempt to circumvent full-fledged peer review of the Florida Re-Study.
The Re-Study project involves scrapping South Florida's current water-delivery system in order to redirect water into the Everglades. Project sponsors, in particular the Army Corps of Engineers, claim the plan is necessary to restore the Everglades ecosystem and to ensure a plentiful, clean water supply for South Florida's residents into the next century.
Recently, the science behind the almost $9 billion project has been called into serious question by environmental organizations, leading ecologists, consumer groups and even scientists of the Everglades National Park. They have all criticized the Re-Study for its failure to provide Everglades restoration, and have called for the project to be reviewed by independent scientists before it is submitted to Congress for authorization.
In response to the increasing calls for peer-review, Babbitt announced that a 14-member panel of government officials would be formed to oversee the project. However, the objectivity of Babbitt's panel has already been questioned. Said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist who has led the call for legitimate peer-review, "I'm certain there will be some very strong pressure to have this panel work from the existing plan … and there's no way that will produce anything. Because the fact is that this plan is deeply and systemically flawed."
Rather than delay authorization and implementation of the Re-Study while it is peer-reviewed, Babbitt's panel would review the project only after construction had started. The panel has already gone on record as opposing any review that would slow the Re-Study down. Essentially this means no review at all, since the Corps of Engineers has stated that as soon as implementation of the Re-Study begins, the entire 37-year project must be completed exactly as planned or it will fail.
According to Paul Beckner, President of CSE Foundation, "Peer-review is the cornerstone of sound environmental policy - it ensures that environmental decision-making does not fall victim to conflicts of interest. Babbitt's attempt to circumvent this process ignores legitimate concerns about the science behind the Re-Study."
Said Patrick Burns, CSE Foundation's director of environmental policy, "Babbitt seems eager to push through a $9 billion plan that does nothing to help the Everglades and may endanger South Florida's water supply. This proves once again that certain leaders see the Everglades as little more than a political prop."
Florida CSE Foundation state director Slade O'Brien added, "We're talking about the future of one of America's greatest natural treasures. Doesn't it make sense to get the science right first?"