by Javier ManjarresMany Floridians are still unaware of a one-mile bridge that is presently being built along the Tamiami trail, a federally earmarked project that is being built right through the Miccosukee Indian Reservation and over the Everglades. Allegedly, the bridge is being constructed to allow water to ‘flow freely’ throughout the Everglades- something it already does except for a few clogged drainage openings that are underneath the Tamiami Trail roadway. The rationale put forth by federal government and other supporters of the project is that because these openings which were originally designed to let the flow of water pass through them are now clogged by the over-growth of vegetation, a new elevated bridge is needed to enable to water to flow even “freer”. The Army Corps of Engineers has been in charge of the construction of the project.
The Miccosukee Indian Tribe have been opposed to this bridge from the onset, and they have asserted that the project will do more far more harm than good for the Everglades. The Miccosukee Tribe also contends that this project will do harm to ‘culturally sensitive’ archeological areas and possibly cause flooding of homes that are in the vicinity of the bridge.
In 2008, a federal judge issuing a ruling in favor of the Miccosukee Tribe, calling the project a “Bridge to Nowhere” and demanded that the construction of the bridge be halted until the federal government complied with proper regulatory safeguards and followed due process. But pursuant to the Tribe’s legal victory, President Obama’s 2009 Omnibus spending bill appropriated $400 million of taxpayer dollars for this project and inserted statutory language in the bill ordering the project to move forward in a direct attempt to circumvent the court’s ruling.
Even as the construction continues on the bridge, the Miccosukee Tribe recently sent this letter to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, asking him to halt the bridge’s construction (click on the images to enlarge):
You would be hard pressed to identify a more hubristic federal government expenditure than this one. Instead of the Federal Government contracting with companies to cut away vegetation overgrowth from the drainage openings at far, far less of a cost, they decide to build a $400 million dollar bridge for very dubious purposes. And a personal observation here- what does a $400 million dollar bridge have to do with Everglades “Restoration”? Were mile long bridges in the Everglades part of the original scenery? Or are we simply uncomfortable with the fact that human development alters the environment?
“Respectfully, this bridge has become a symbol of federal government environmental policy largesse. It is a waste of taxpayer monies that will harm the Everglades as well as the Miccosukee who live here.” – Colley Bille, Chairman, Miccosukee Business Council
Not surprisingly, this disgraceful pork barrel project has enjoyed the full support of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson, who both continue to believe that this project is not only wise and necessary, but also classifiable as Everglades “Restoration”.