MIAMI HERALD: Roadblock for Miami-Dade parkway plan? Feds own big chunks of wetlands along the route

MIAMI HERALD: Written by Jenny Staletovich. June 19, 2018.

When Miami-Dade County commissioners vote Wednesday on whether to allow the Dolphin Expressway to snake across wetlands where the federal government has bought large tracts as part of Everglades protection plans, one question remains unclear: whether the federal government will agree to surrender the land.

Over decades of trying to fix the Everglades, the Department of Interior has agreed only once before to lifting restrictions on four parcels. And that deal enabled restoration work elsewhere.

But if commissioners clear the way for a $650 million highway extension of State Road 836, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority will need to acquire many more acres in the Bird Drive wetlands outside Miami-Dade's urban development boundary in a rare bid to swap wetlands for pavement. The request would be almost unprecedented. Other than the deal approved this year that lifted restrictions on about 45 acres in the basin and Broward wetlands, Interior officials have only agreed to two other limited transfers of deed restrictions, said Stephen Collins, real estate director for the South Florida Water Management District.

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