EAA storage reservoir planning progress continues

OKEECHOBEE — Plans for providing more water storage in the Everglades Agricultural Area were reviewed at the public meeting on the Everglades Agricultural Area storage reservoir on Dec. 5 at the South Florida Water Management District office in West Palm Beach. This was the seventh public meeting about the EAA reservoir.

Matt Morrison, of the South Florida Water Management District, said the modeling includes 41 years of data, which includes very wet and very dry times.

“Obviously the high-volume damaging freshwater discharges from the lake to the Northern estuaries is a problem, and the lack of freshwater flow to the Everglades system is also a problem,” he said.

Land acquisition will occur from willing sellers only, and we have been very aggressive in reaching out and looking to squire properties to fit into this project,” said Mr. Morrison.

“The law is very specific,” he said. “It talks about 240,000 acre-feet of storage and necessary treatment on the A-2 parcel plus conveyance improvements.”

Mr Morrison explained that Senate Bill 10 sets the framework for the EAA feasibility study.

The law provides additional water storage, treatment and conveyance south of the lake to reduce the volume of the harmful freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries.

Mr. Morrison said the law also requires the district to meet existing legal water use, maintain flood protection and meet water quality requirements.

In addition to the public participation at the seven meetings, the EAA website has had more than 3,000 website views, and SFWMD has received public comment through more than 800 emails, some mailed correspondence.

Mr. Morrison said the public response has indicated there is broad public support for additional storage, treatment and conveyance south of Lake Okeechobee. There is also support for the expedited schedule to address damaging freshwater discharges to the coastal estuaries.

Mr. Morrison said CEPP takes some of the water from the lake that would be discharged east or west in current system and directs that water south down the Miami Canal and the North New River Canal to the stormwater treatment areas (STAs). After the water is cleaned, it moves down the system into Everglades National Park.

“What CEPP does is improve conveyance,” he said.

Ray Palmer said the land under consideration for the EAA reservoir project includes three types leases: district, state land and private land.

He said SFWMD is trying to squire land west of the A-2.

“All of the leases on SFWMD land expire in March 2019. That is very timely for the project,” said Mr. Palmer.

In regard to state lands, “we are working with the state and the lessee right now trying to work out ending those leases sooner. Those leases are quite a bit longer,” he said. “The statute states we will work with the state and the lessee to get those lands into the system.”

Mr. Palmer said there are also some leases on private land. “We talking to those people about acquiring those lands. Those leases also end in 2019,” he said.

“We are in good position to get those lands into the project. It does take some negotiation and some work.”

Some in the audience asked about water quality issues related to using the area now used for water treatment as deep water reservoir.

“We’re looking at deep storage consistent with state law. There are two options identified.

There’s a 240,000-acre foot reservoir and required treatment on A-2 and the lands to the west. Then there’s the 360,000-acre foot reservoir that uses A-1, A-2 and the lands to the west,” said Mr. Morrison.

He said if they take A-1 and use it for deep storage, they will have to develop additional stormwater treatment area. “Compartment A-1 today is a shallow storage facility that is allowed to operate in a manner to help move additional flow south as part of the CEPP,” he said.

Jim David, Indian River Lagoon Council Management Conference, asked how the EAA reservoir project will address water quality issues.

“In the State of Florida’s waters, if they are deep, they tend to accumulate organics and recycle nutrients and go eutrophic if they have input of organics,” he said.

“You are using your STAs and shallow marshes to remove those organics that have accumulated,” he said.

“If you are going to build a deep reservoir south of the lake, it’s going to accumulate organics,” he said.

“If you are going to build a deep water reservoir this close to the Everglades and you are going to have to add stormwater filtration, and you want to not effect the efficiency of that filtration, you should consider aeration of the bottom of this deep reservoir.

He said aeration can stop recycling of the nutrients. He said new aeration technologies can block recycling without actually having removed the organic legacy load, and start to remove the legacy load by combusting it into carbon dioxide.

“Consider the carbon pollution, carbon accumulation problem as one that you ought to address. Build it into the system so that you are not actually reducing the effectiveness of your filtration marshes by loading right next to them.

“I think it’s a great idea to build a reservoir, I just think you should make sure that it doesn’t add to the problem,” he said.

Walter Wilcox, of SFWMD Hydrologic & Environmental Systems Modeling, said the STA system to be built with the reservoir will be appropriate for wet years, average rainfall years and dry years. He said the system will ensure water quality compliance. He said the planning process and modeling is ongoing.

He said the modeling takes the rate of the settling of sediments into consideration.

He said the outflow from the facility must meet the needs of the Everglades in water quality and quantity.

Jeremy McBryan, SFWMD engineer, said they are looking at different configurations for the reservoir and water treatment areas.

He said they will use a combination of gravity flow and pump stations to move the water.

“If we are going to stack water in the 17 to 20 ft. range we are going to need pump flow,” he said. “Once it is in the reservoir you have a lot of opportunity for gravity flow.”

He added that they might need strategic pump stations to make sure they can get water out of the reservoir at the desired flow.

Upcoming meetings and deadlines include:

• The Water Resources Committee meets on Dec. 7.

• Modeling results will be reviewed in detail at a Dec. 13 public meeting at SFWMD Headquarters, 3301 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach.

• On Dec. 14, an update on the plans will be presented to the SFWMD Governing Board.

• Jan. 9 Florida Legislature will be updated on the feasibility report.

• Jan. 22, the draft post authorization change report to Congress should be available for review. This is required because the EAA reservoir is a change to the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which was already approved by Congress. The district is also required to focus on the EAA reservoir goals outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP). CEPP is a component of CERP.

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