"It's starving for freshwater," Kimball said.
The $26 million project falls under the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, approved by Congress in 2000.
But little progress has been made, as projects are delayed by funding shortfalls, political infighting and legal challenges. A congressionally mandated review last year concluded that the outlook for the Everglades remained dire.
The wetlands have been damaged for decades by the intrusion of farms, development, pollution and urban runoff. Dikes, dams and canals have effectively drained much of the swamp.
Getting the water flow corrected is seen as the key to the ecosystem's survival.
Environmental activists hail the C-111 project as vital to the health of Florida Bay, but caution that much more restoration needs to be done.
CERP calls for the state and federal governments to split the cost of Everglades restoration 50-50, but the congressional authorization that's required for the U.S. government to meet its obligations has lagged.
"The state has been working, but the feds haven't," because their projects still await authorization, said Kahlil Kettering of the National Parks Conservation Association.
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