EAA reservoir plan progresses; Request to change CEPP to include EAA reservoir sent to Assistant Secretary of the Army

OKEECHOBEE — Plans for the proposed Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir continue to move forward.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has submitted its plan to build the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir for federal approval. If approved, the EAA reservoir will be built as part of the congressionally approved Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). This change to the CEPP plans was submitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works on March 26, in accordance with state law.

Before being submitted to Congress for authorization, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must approve the plan and determine that it complies with federal law. Congressional authorization is necessary to make the project eligible for federal funding.

The proposed EAA Storage Reservoir will meet the goals set forth by the Florida Legislature when it passed Senate Bill 10 in 2017, according to SFWMD officals: It will reduce damaging discharges to the northern estuaries, deliver clean water for Everglades restoration and achieve water quality standards.

“After many months of hard work by district staff, this is a momentous day for the future of the Everglades and for all who call South Florida home,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “This agency has done its job and created a plan that combines sound science with public feedback to achieve the goals and objectives of state law. It’s now up to our federal partners to carry the momentum on southern storage.”

These volumes comprise the Central Everglades Planning Project Post Authorization Change Report submitted today by SFWMD to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, seeking federal authorization to build the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir. Special to the Okeechobee News/SFWMD.

Together with authorized projects, the reservoir plan will send an annual average of approximately 370,000 additional acre-feet of clean water south to the Everglades. The water quality will be required to meet to the nutrient levels set by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The plan will also reduce the number of damaging discharge events from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries by 63 percent when used in conjunction with authorized projects, according to SFWMD reports.

The additional flows south to the Everglades will be treated in a new 6,500-acre Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) in combination with existing STAs and Flow Equalization Basins (FEBs), such as the A-1 FEB, to achieve state water quality standards. The reservoir will store 240,000 acre-feet of water on the 10,100-acre site comprised of the district-owned A-2 parcel and lands to the west as identified in Senate Bill 10.

The net increase in cost over the currently authorized CEPP is $1.1 billion. The total cost of the authorized CEPP, with the addition of the EAA reservoir is $3.17 billion.

The reservoir plan was approved by the SFWMD Governing Board on March 8 and submitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army along with an independent peer review that found the plan to be technically sound.

After the project is funded by Congress, it will take about 8 years to complete – with 3 years estimated for engineering and 5 years estimated for construction.

Some environmental groups initially opposed the EAA reservoir alternative chosen by SFWMD, but following approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation groups including the Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida, the Snook and Gamefish Foundation, the Everglades Trust, the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society wrote a letter in support of the reservoir plan.

“The EAA Reservoir is one step closer to becoming a reality,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s interim executive director. “With a tentatively selected plan in hand that sends needed clean water south, we urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make reviewing this project a top priority.”

To read the full report or for modeling data and more information on the previously held public meetings, including agendas and presentations, visit www.sfwmd.gov/eaareservoir.

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