The Office of Ecosystem Projects plays a key role in carrying out the largest environmental restoration project in the world — restoring America’s Everglades. Our office ensures effective implementation of DEP’s policy, programmatic, technical and regulatory responsibilities under the Everglades Forever Act, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, and related efforts including Kissimmee River Restoration, Critical Projects Program, Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation, and Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park. Restoration initiatives are focused on improving water quality and restoring the hydrology and ecology of the Everglades ecosystem, which extends further than many realize — stretching from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, to Lake Okeechobee, through the remaining Everglades and on to the waters of the Florida Bay — an area covering 18,000 square miles.
Edward Smith, Director, Office of Ecosystem Projects Edward Smith oversees Everglades restoration efforts for the state of Florida, which entails planning, permitting and compliance assistance for the restoration efforts, as well as working to ensure resources are available for current and future projects. Prior to his current position, he worked for the Department of Environmental Protection in the Division of Water Facilities Regulation in various roles including NPDES Stormwater Program Administrator, statewide compliance coordinator for wastewater facilities and permit writer in the power plant group.
Overview of Restoration Programs
To restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem, the Florida Legislature established the state of Florida’s responsibilities in a series of statutes under the Florida Water Resources Act (Chapter 373, Florida Statutes [F.S.]). In addition to authorizing the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to serve as local sponsor for the majority of restoration efforts, the statutes direct the roles and responsibilities of both DEP and the SFWMD for plans authorized through the Everglades Forever Act (EFA; 373.4592, F.S.), the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP; 373.026, 373.1501 and 373.1502, F.S.), the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program (NEEPP; 373.4595, F.S.), and the Everglades Restoration Investment Act (373.470, F.S.). Some of the programs are being implemented and funded wholly by the state of Florida, whereas others involve partnerships with local, state and the federal government.
The office ensures the state of Florida’s interests are represented through policy and program development, which includes legislation, funding, project scheduling, and integration of priorities across the plans referenced above to ensure a holistic approach to South Florida ecosystem restoration. Staff also participates in the formulation and planning of projects to ensure they are consistent with the requirements of governing rules and statutes, and that the projects meet their restoration goals. Plan elements are complex and require a balanced approach to the protection of water and ecological resources with the often-competing objectives of water supply and flood control. Projects include the construction and operations of large-scale civil works including reservoirs, impoundments, and stormwater treatment areas, and other changes to the regional system of canals and control structures that improve the quality, timing and distribution of water.
Our functions include:
Coordination of policy and resources for state-led Everglades restoration efforts.
Project planning and engineering support.
Permitting of ecosystem restoration projects and environmental compliance.
Providing technical support for legislative activities related to Everglades restoration.
Management of legislative appropriations for restoration activities and funding of studies designed to investigate regional water quality issues.
Providing technical support to the Office of General Counsel for litigation related to Everglades restoration.
Coordinating with other department staff, state and federal agencies, industry representatives, and other groups in developing and implementing water quality, biological, and other research and monitoring programs in the Everglades Protection Area; evaluating water quality, biological and other data from these programs.
Participation in technical groups and committees, including the:
Reviewing and preparing technical reports on topics related to Everglades restoration, including the South Florida Environmental Report and documents distributed through the Florida State Clearinghouse.
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.