National Park Service Focusing On 5.5 Mile Tamiami Trail Bridge Plan

National Park Service Focusing On 5.5 Mile Tamiami Trail Bridge Plan

The epic struggle to restore freshwater flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay is gaining steam. Last summer, the National Park Service wrapped up a comment period on its plan to bridge 5.5 miles of Tamiami Trail in addition to a one-mile span currently under construction. At a public hearing in Miami last June, more than 75 Sierra Club members and supporters came out to speak in favor of the plan and thousands submitted comments online.

Sierra Club's original vision, dubbed the "Skyway," called for elevating 11 miles of the road to restore flow to the Everglades' largest tributary, Shark River Slough. As a compromise, the National Park Service proposed a total of 5.5 miles in a series of bridges plus the one-mile bridge project now underway. This new plan, backed by the Sierra Club and the 50-member Everglades Coalition, holds the greatest opportunity in decades to restore the River of Grass.

Earlier this year, Obama Administration officials said that funding the new bridging would be a top priority. The National Park Service is expected to accept written comments on the final plan later this fall with a final Record of Decision slated for next spring. Then it will be up to the Administration and Congress to secure funding. Environmentalists hope to see seamless integration between the new project and the one-mile bridge now being constructed over the Trail.

Failure is not an option

Building the 6.5 mile "Skyway" not only benefits the parched flora and fauna in the park; it is crucial to mitigating the impacts of sea level rise. The Everglades is sinking because dried-out soil is vanishing at an alarming rate. Scientists say a sinking Everglades and a rising sea means salt water could intrude into the Everglades and nearby drinking water aquifers within decades.

Only by restoring freshwater flow across Tamiami Trail do we have a chance to rehydrate the soil and provide a head of flowing fresh water to counter the rising seas. Simply put, the sheer existence of the Everglades is at stake, and now is the time to act. We need your help!

—Jonathan Ullman, Sierra Club Everglades Field Representative, Miami