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AFP

Water vegetation is seen at the Everglades National Park, Florida on September 30, 2021

Miami (AFP) – The plan to restore the Florida Everglades, the largest wetlands in the United States, will receive a federal investment of $1.1 billion to protect the region against the effects of climate change, the White House said Wednesday.

“The Administration is making the largest single investment in the Everglades in US history,” the White House said in a statement.

The money, which comes from already approved funds in President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress in November, will be spent by the US Army Corps of Engineers. 

“The iconic American landscape provides drinking water supply for over 8 million Floridians, supports the state’s $90 billion tourism economy, and is home to dozens of endangered or threatened species,” the White House said. 

The Everglades, a subtropical ecosystem of more than 607,000 hectares (1.5 million acres), is the scene of one of the biggest ecological rehabilitation projects in the world. 

The area is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, a consequence of climbing temperatures due to climate change, as an influx of saltwater could disrupt groundwater reserves and throw off the balance between the region’s plants and animals. 

The restoration efforts will try to revive the flow of water across the wetland, which has been interrupted by decades of human development. 

Scientists envision a complex system of canals, dams and water pumps. 

Congress in 2000 approved a $7.8 billion federally and state-funded plan to protect the Everglades, a national park, which, despite some advances, faced delay after delay.

The money from Wednesday’s announcement could accelerate the project, according to Florida’s Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz. 

“This is enormous news, and allows us to set a course for quicker completion of the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project,” she said in a statement.