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Breathtakingly Beautiful

It's pristine and breathtakingly beautiful. But it's also as fragile as fine glass. It is the Florida Everglades.

This week we've shown you the work underway to preserve this natural wonder. Now Gail Bartunek takes us soaring high above the river of grass.

"For decades, plenty of hard work and planning has gone into reconstructing one of our nation's most precious natural resources, the Florida Everglades. We want to take you on a journey to see the project just as we did, from the Everglades themselves and from the air!"

Our journey begins with a helicopter tour of several stormwater treatment areas around Lake Okechobee.

"There's probably about 40 to 60 different pump stations, we're growing every day... there's new stations being built for the STAs."

Water management officials say the pump stations are necessary to purify water runoff from farms and development in the area.

"The cattails and the different types of weeds we have growing here will eat up all the phosphorus and the water leaves five miles from here, cleaned up, to go on down to the Everglades."

A flat-bottomed boat ride down the Kissimmee River is next on the agenda to see for ourselves how backfilling the c-38 canal has restored the floodplain.

"Behind me, this was all cattle pasture three years ago. Now you see a vibrant healthy marsh system, that all we did is provide the water and the marsh system came back."

South Florida water management experts on our airboat ride through the heart of "the river of grass" told us the marsh system is thriving here too, partly because of research being done at LILA, their 17-acre research model of the Everglades.

"Science is a very evolving process, so by starting these projects up in LILA, in 30 years' time we hope to have a very in-depth understanding of how the Everglades works."

"All the way from sea level to a birds' eye view, scientists say, slowly, the Everglades is coming back. They say in 30 years, when they hope to finish this project, they want to have it restored to its natural state.

Gail Bartunek and videographer Blain Logan also talked to cattle ranchers in the area who are working with water management officials to preserve and restore the Everglades. The project is slated to be carried out over the next three decades, with the state and federal governments splitting the $8.4 billion cost.


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