City gets $3 million from state for reclaimed water project
A pipeline project that will bring reclaimed water from Fort Myers into Cape Coral while reducing harmful discharges into the Caloosahatchee River has received a giant boost from the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed as part of the state budget $3 million in appropriations for the city’s Caloosahatchee River Crossing Project, which will create a reclaimed water pipeline underneath the river at the Midpoint Bridge from Fort Myers to Cape Coral.
“We want to thank Gov. DeSantis for supporting this important project, which will provide benefits to Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and the environment,” said City Manager John Szerlag in a statement. “We have been working on securing alternative sources to meet our city’s irrigation demand. Our partnership with Fort Myers will provide additional water and help reduce the impact on our freshwater canals during the dry season.”
The crossing project is the largest appropriation for Lee County this legislative session. In total, Lee County got around $11.5 million in projects.
The project is considered a win-win for both cities. Cape Coral will receive reclaimed water for irrigation use during the dry season, and Fort Myers will reduce discharges to the Caloosahatchee River.
State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77) said the project was eight years in the making and is of upmost importance both locally and statewide for water quality and quantity.
“Fort Myers is dumping tens of millions of gallons of treated water into the river every day, which doesn’t help the water quality,” Eagle said. “Cape Coral has a quantity shortage and we can use that water for irrigation and firefighters. We also have more people living here and they aren’t making any more water.”
Mayor Joe Coviello said the nutrients going into the river didn’t help last summer when blue-green algae choked out the river, leaving behind devastation to living matter in the river and the health of people and tourism out of it.
Coviello said while the difference wasn’t severe, the pipeline will certainly help.
“The water can get over here so we can recondition it and utilize it for irrigation and keep the canal levels good,” Coviello said. “This project is a win-win for both cities and we looked forward to this project for a long time and it’s finally happening.”
The city of Fort Myers got $1.5 million in companion funding for its side of the agreement.
Eagle said water quality has been a major priority in Tallahassee, as Florida is a peninsula with all kinds of water issues and needs.
A record $687 million was put in the budget for water quality, Eagle said, which he called the most Everglades friendly budget in state history.
“Our sales tax dollars all go to Tallahassee and we try to bring that money home for infrastructure purposes. They help with the water quality issues that we’re focused on trying to fix,” Eagle said. “Our delegation has made water a big issue since before I was there. The challenge has been making it a statewide issue and not a regional one. Last summer highlighted it and the governor made it a top priority.”
The city has solicited proposals from engineering firms for the design, regulatory permitting and construction of the pipeline and is presently in contract negotiations. The design and permitting is estimated to take between 12 and 18 months to complete.
A grant from the state was awarded for $800,000 to assist with the cost of designing and permitting of the reclaimed water transmission main.
Construction of the pipeline for Cape Coral is expected to cost about $15 million and will be completed in 2023. It will cost around $5 million for Fort Myers.