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DeSantis announces agreement for Everglades reservoir

By NATHAN MAYBERG - | Apr 28, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis

nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com

New progress on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project was announced on Earth Day by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The announcement followed a vote by the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board to authorize an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction on the reservoir component this year.

The wetlands part of the project is expected to be completed in 2023.

DeSantis said the latest agreement “means we are another step closer to moving more clean water south through the Everglades and reducing harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.”

DeSantis said the new project will include a 10,500-acre above-ground water storage area, which is “absolutely essential to reduce harmful discharges to the northern estuaries and to help us send more clean water south to the Everglades.” He anticipates construction beginning later this year and reflects a “commitment to our water resources.”

South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss described the project, which includes restoring river grass over 17,000 acres in the Everglades agricultural area, as “the most ambitious ecosystem restoration effort in the world — restoring Florida’s Everglades.”

Last year, the South Florida Water Management District began construction on the State of Florida’s water-cleansing marsh component of the project, the stormwater treatment area. That included blasting and excavating canals, Goss said.

“Instead of sending excess Lake Okeechobee water to our estuaries, the reservoir and wetlands will work together to divert that excess water south to the Everglades and ultimately to Florida Bay where it is needed the most,” Goss said. “Once we finish, we can send even more water to the Everglades instead of flushing it east and west.”

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said the project is estimated to reduce high-level flows by about 60% when combined with all the other projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Central Everglades Planning Project.

“So, we don’t know specifically how the EAA Reservoir alone will contribute to reducing high Lake discharges,” Cassani stated.

Most important locally, is the construction of the C-43 storage basin project, Cassani said.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, said “the EAA Reservoir, together with others already under construction, will reduce algae-causing discharges from Lake Okeechobee by more than half and provide a source of life-giving fresh clean water to America’s Everglades and Florida Bay.”

James Evans, environmental policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, called the development a “keystone project of Everglades restoration, a project that will reduce the damaging discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and restore freshwater flows to the Everglades and Florida Bay.” the South Florida Water Management District moving forward at full speed to implement it.”