A recently released report slams the Interior Department for missteps that have delayed
a water project key to restoring the health and vitality of Everglades National Park.
In a nutshell, the report issued by Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney blames leadership failures and poor inter-agency coordination for not just delaying the so-called "Modified Water Deliveries Project" but also causing the project's cost to balloon from the original $80 million estimate to roughly $400 million.
"The Department of the Interior has not effectively participated in the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park," reads the report's opening sentence. "The department's participation has been ineffective because it has not developed and communicated a comprehensive and unified restoration strategy and clearly defined its consultation role for the project. This has contributed to project delays and cost increases.
"Additionally, we found that the department has taken little action to monitor or obtain project status information from the agency charged with designing and constructing the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
And that's just one aspect of the massive Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan endorsed by Congress six years ago. Who knows what other cost overruns will emerge as time goes by?
The water project in question was designed in 1989 to increase water flows into the Everglades in a bid to replace historic water supplies that over the decades were cut off by development.
Acting Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett didn't take exception with the report --which said other parties involved in the restoration project played a role in the delays and cost escalations-- and pledged greater cooperation between all involved.
This is not the first time the Interior inspector has pointed his finger at those in Washington for erring along the way to restoring the Everglades. Last summer Devaney said the Bush administration had proposed to vastly overpay a prominent Florida family for oil and gas rights it held on land key to the restoration.
The inspector didn't cite any political shennanigans in the deal. Rather, he said the family in question had "better lawyers and better negotiators" than the government.