JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2016) -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, alongside federal, state and local officials, celebrated the start of construction on one of the three remaining contracts for the C-111 South Dade project, an Everglades restoration project in Miami-Dade County today.

The contract, known as Contract 8, involves constructing the North Detention Area, which will connect the C-111 South Dade project to the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park project. These projects are foundation projects, which the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, builds upon to deliver essential restoration benefits to America's Everglades.

"The Obama Administration has already invested $2.2 billion in the restoration of the Everglades. This is the second groundbreaking in just two months," said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. "The C-111 South Dade project is critical to the overall efforts to restore the south Florida ecosystem. Together, we are saving this system and preserving it for future generations."

Once completed, the project will work in concert with the Modified Water Deliveries project to create a hydraulic ridge that will reduce groundwater seeping out of eastern Everglades National Park. As a result, this will enable additional water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

"When it comes to water, the entire Everglades ecosystem is interconnected," said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville commander. "The North Detention Area will connect infrastructure from the C-111 South Dade and Modified Water Deliveries projects together to help ensure that water goes where it needs to go. This is an important step towards getting all of the necessary infrastructure in place, which will enable more flexibility in our water operations."

The $13.9 million construction contract for Contract 8 was awarded to the Polote Corporation from Savannah, Georgia, Oct. 29. Two construction contracts remain for the C-111 South Dade project and are scheduled to be awarded within the next two years.

"The project exemplifies the collaboration of multiple state and federal agencies, as well as local area stakeholders, to protect America's Everglades and the larger south Florida ecosystem," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. "I commend the Army Corps and the South Florida Water Management District on advancing this project."

The C-111 South Dade project is being constructed in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, or SFWMD, the local sponsor.

"The C-111 South Dade Project is critical to the ecology, economy and future of this beautiful area of southern Miami-Dade County. That is why our taxpayers have invested so much into this effort," said South Florida Water Management District governing board member Jim Moran. "I am extremely happy to see the progress we have made enhancing flood protection for the South Dade region and restoring the freshwater wetlands in Everglades National Park and the rest of the region."

The completed project will restore natural hydrologic conditions in Northeast Shark River Slough, Taylor Slough and the eastern panhandle of Everglades National Park.

"We appreciate the partnership we have with the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida, which is so vital to restoring more natural water flows to Everglades National Park, while also maintaining appropriate flood protection and water supply requirements," said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades National Park. "This groundbreaking signals that our continuing interagency partnerships have led to meaningful progress toward meeting these goals."

The project will also provide maximum operational flexibility in providing environmental restoration of the area, while providing flood protection for the region.

"The C-111 South Dade South project will deliver long hoped-for benefits to Everglades National Park while protecting urban areas from the effects of moving more freshwater into the natural system," said Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper. "Restoration efforts are starting to pay off in America's Everglades. This important foundation project will provide infrastructure needed to increase freshwater flows in the future and will improve hydrology in Taylor Slough. Audubon is proud to be part of the effort to win authorization and funding for more restoration projects."

Every restoration effort within the Everglades ecosystem directly or indirectly effects each other. Due to the interdependencies of these projects, the ultimate success of restoration efforts are dependent on the completion of others. For the southern portion of the Everglades ecosystem to be operated as effectively as possible, the necessary infrastructure needs to be in place, the necessary data to evaluate operational flexibility needs to be known, and the resulting combined operating plan needs to be developed and implemented.

The completed C-111 South Dade and Modified Water Deliveries projects will provide this needed infrastructure and the ongoing G-3273 and S-356 Pump Station Field Test will provide the data needed to refine operations under the combined operating plan. The combined operating plan will enable additional water to flow south into Everglades National Park and provide optimal restoration and operational benefits for the southern Everglades ecosystem.

"Completion of this project will begin a new era in water management in the southern Everglades, which is important to both ecosystem restoration and water sustainability," Ramos said. "This will improve the hydrologic conditions in the Taylor Slough headwaters, reduce groundwater seepage into the adjacent eastern agricultural areas, while sending additional freshwater into Florida Bay. It is a win-win for both the park and all our neighbors. We are very pleased to see this important component of the C-111 South Dade project moving forward into construction."