DAVIE, Fla. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management
District, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, and several
other partners recently marked the start of construction of a science facility for
raising insects to help control invasive plant species.

The ground breaking ceremony was held at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Plant Research Laboratory here.

“We cannot have true Everglades restoration without controlling the invasive species,” said Jacksonville District Commander Col. Al Pantano. “The invasives problem has grown to the scale where it can no longer be ignored and today we are taking action to keep them under control as we restore this one-of-a-kind ecosystem.”

Rather than shoveling dirt into a pile to symbolically mark the beginning of the construction, the dignitaries in attendance released a variety of already-approved insects on the facility’s “orchard” of invasive trees they use for research.

“I believe this was a model project that showed all the agencies were working together,” said Corps Project Manger Kim Vitek. “It was satisfying to me and my branch to see this cohesive effort come together for the betterment of the Everglades.”

The insects will be used as biocontrols to manage exotic plants such as melaleuca, Lygodium and Brazilian pepper. Controlling these invasive species is critical to protect South Florida’s environment and the Everglades.

“The success that has been made in controlling invasive species has not been due to a single person or agency,” said Bill Zattau, Branch Chief for the Jacksonville District Invasive Species Management Branch. “The groundbreaking for construction of this annex is no exception. It has been the work of many agencies, numerous biologists, scientists, engineers, project managers, and planners that has gotten us to this point. All of the agencies and individuals must keep working on invasive species problems as they will certainly continue. With important strides such as we marked today, invasive species managers are confident that the biological control agents grown in this facility will assist in future efforts to manage invasive plant species.”

Construction of the project will begin July 22, 2011 and completion of the facility is expected to be September 9, 2012.

The total cost of the annex is $16.7 million, which is funded through a 50/50 federal/non-federal agreement.

The agencies involved in this ceremony and their scientists are recognized world-wide for their expertise in pioneering this vital science, which has helped saved some native species from distinction and ecosystem degradation.

It is estimated that 25,000 non-native species have found a home in the south Florida region, and now account for more than one-third of all plants in Florida. The scientists involved in the project are considered the globe’s experts and their knowledge is constantly sought abroad.

Page last updated Mon June 13th, 2011 at 00:00