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FL Water Management Approves Reservoir Contract

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

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The South Florida Water Management District board recently approved a contract for the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project.

Noted by reports to be the first contract approved for the project, the scope of work focuses on cutting discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers by 63%.

About the Project

The Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project intends to send clean water south to the parched Southern Everglades and Florida Bay, in addition to reducing damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Jupiterimages / Getty Images

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) board recently approved a contract for the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project.

Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in Executive Order 19-12 Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment, expediting the project’s intended completion. Since the order, full design work began in June 2019, followed by required canal surveying and obtaining site permits.

According to SFWMD, the project will involve a combination of canals, stormwater treatment areas and a storage reservoir anticipated to hold 240,000 acre-feet of water. The reservoir will also include a newly constructed treatment wetland to provide additional water quality benefits.

In February, however, multiple environmentalist groups penned a letter to the Corps that the project’s current design should be reevaluated.

“As it's currently designed, the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir won't protect the river estuaries from discharges and the toxic algae blooms they cause or provide clean freshwater to Everglades National Park,” read the letter.

More specifically, the groups point out that:

  • The 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area hasn’t proved adequate for water quality treatment;
  • The 10,100-acre reservoir would cause algae blooms as bad or worse than those already in Lake Okeechobee;
  • The water management district sited the project on land already in public ownership verses considering a larger land footprint; and
  • As designs stand, the project should be considered “the next increment" of work south of Lake Okeechobee rather than “the final step.”

As a response to the concerns regarding the project’s designs, SFWMD spokesman Randy Smith said that, “It's been OK'd by the Corps; it's been OK'd by Congress. Any changes at this point would require totally restarting the federal approval process and result in lengthy delays in completion.”

Reported recently, the project was undergoing critical site preparation while the SFWMD continued to collect state and federal permits to clear land for the construction of a canal for the project.

Next month, the Corps intend to break ground on the construction of a 6,500-acre man-made marsh which will work to clean water as it moves through the reservoir and into the Everglades. However, the Corps still must approve required permits.

This portion of the project is slated to be completed by April 2024.

During the later stages of the project, the Corps will build a 10,100-acre reservoir by constructing 37-foot walls. The portion of the project is slated to take eight years to complete and will hold up to 78.2 billion gallons of excess lake water.

What’s Happening Now

Last month, the SFWMD awarded a nearly $13 million contract with Ryan Incorporated Southern (Deerfield Beach, Florida) for the construction of roughly 4.5 miles of the inflow-outflow canal along the project’s northern border, an adjacent seepage canal and a levee for the project’s man-made marsh.

Ryan Incorporated Southern was reported to be the lowest of four bids received by the district. Money for this portion of the project will be funded by the Everglades Trust Fund budgeted for fiscal year 2019-20.

Once the total project is completed, TC Palm reports that it will send roughly 120.6 billion gallons of clean water to the Everglades and Florida Bay every year. The project is expected to cost $1.8 billion but will be split between SFWMD and the Corps.

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Reservoir; Stormwater; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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