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Construction of Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir begins

By Staff | Apr 23, 2020

Nearly two years removed from a summer that Floridians will remember for blue-green algae and toxic discharges, construction on the much-anticipated Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir began Monday.

The South Florida Water Management District received its final federal permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers last Friday, which kick-started this key component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The reservoir will send clean water south to the starving Southern Everglades and Florida Bay while simultaneously reducing discharges from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

“Completing the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir (EAA) is one of our major long-term water quality solutions,” said Congressman Francis Rooney, in a statement. “In (fiscal year) 2020 we obtained $200 million in funding for the EAA. Now that the South Florida Water Management District has received its final federal permit to begin work at the site, it is my hope that we move quickly on construction of this vital piece of the puzzle for Everglades restoration.”

Work will begin with the construction of the 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area component of the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

According SFWMD, the reservoir is anticipated to hold 240,000 acre-feet of water and include the aforementioned man-made wetland, or “Stormwater Treatment Area,” to provide additional water quality benefits.

“It’s huge,” said SFWMD Chairman, Chauncey Goss, of Everglades restoration projects in a recent interview with The Breeze. “The Everglades restoration — that’s that big money and that’s where we’re in a 50/50 partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers for CERP and we’re plugging away on that.”

The EAA reservoir was originally green-lighted in 2000 as a component of CERP. A recent political drive for environmental dollars, stemming from multiple summers of algae outbreaks and health concerns, has seen record funding for these projects in recent years.

“For America’s Everglades and Florida Bay, this announcement is a welcome lifeline,” said The Everglades Foundation CEO Erik Eikenberg, in a statement. “After more than 20 years, we are finally moving forward with a project that will deliver massive amounts of clean, fresh water south to the Everglades, under the bridges of Tamiami Trail, and ultimately to Florida Bay.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis showed his support of the beginning of the project over social media last Friday.

“I look forward to construction starting as soon as possible. The project is not only essential for Everglades restoration, it will also create hundreds of jobs,” he wrote in a Tweet.

Eikenberg echoed the governor’s sentiments on creating jobs with these projects, as well as the job stability of those in fear of losing theirs with a lack of tourists, a very real possibility this community has dealt with in recent years.

Currently the state is facing another economic crisis, along with the rest of the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said that’s another reason job creation, along with clean waterways, is crucial at this moment.

“Construction of the Everglades Reservoir will mean thousands of jobs for people who desperately need them now,” Eikenberg said. “Its completion, together with other projects already underway, will reduce algae-causing discharges by more than half, helping save many more Florida jobs in tourism, hospitality, real estate and recreational fishing in the long run.”

Goss said recently that the SFWMD expects the EAA Reservoir to take three-plus years to construct.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj