Everglades Coalition wants EAA reservoir project to have larger footprint

The South Florida Water Management District’s proposed alternatives for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir are massive projects. The smaller option would cover 10,100 acres, the larger option 19,700 acres. According to the Everglades Coalition, that’s not big enough.

The day before the SFWMD’s top alternatives went to the Florida Senate for consideration, the Everglades Coalition voiced opposition to the district’s recommendations for an above-ground storage reservoir in the EAA, and called for an option with a larger footprint.

Ernie Marks of the South Florida Water Management District is set to update the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee at 12:30 p.m. today, Jan. 17.
On Jan. 16, the Everglades Coalition sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott claiming that “the district has failed to configure a project footprint that can store and clean the water necessary to provide Everglades National Park and Florida Bay the freshwater flows the ecosystem requires.”

In the letter, signed by co-chairmen Mark Perry and Michael J. Baldwin, the Everglades Coalition urges the governor to consider options that use more EAA land.

“Because of the failure to consider reasonable alternatives that rely on additional acreage, the analysis developed by the district fails to demonstrate whether additional acreage would result in the optimal configuration of the EAA reservoir most likely to meet federal cost-benefit analyses and the funding requirements identified in Florida Statute 373.4598,” states the letter. “The inclusion of alternatives that incorporate additional acreage would allow an analysis of shallower storage options with greater acreage available for water quality treatment. Such an analysis is likely to increase ecosystem benefits in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.

“We urge you to direct the district to model further reasonable options, including the alternative provided by the Everglades Foundation last December, which incorporate additional acreage available through the termination of state leases, so as to identify the optimal configuration for the EAA Reservoir Project. Doing so will demonstrate to the Florida Legislature and taxpayers how the state will meet the intent of Florida Statute 373.4598 to achieve the goals of water quality and storage capacity while simultaneously meeting federal cost-benefit analysis and planning process requirements. The district must identify the acreage of additional land needed to achieve this result before it is too late,” the letter continues.

A Jan. 9 report to the Florida Legislature from the SFWMD lists two “best buy” options for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir required as part of Senate Bill 10.

SB-10 was signed into law on May 9, 2017. by Gov. Scott, when the SFWMD was given the Jan. 9, 2018, deadline to have the EAA reservoir plan ready to present to the Legislature.

“Since its passage, SFWMD’s staff of professional engineers, scientists, modelers and restoration experts have worked tirelessly to meet the intent and letter of the law. Working with input from the public, they have developed alternatives to implement the EAA Storage Reservoir project on lands identified by the Legislature. Together with authorized projects including components of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), the reservoir will significantly reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges, improve flow to the Everglades and achieve state water quality standards. Implementation of any selected alternative will provide much-needed relief to the estuaries and foster resilience in the ecology of the entire region,” SFWMD Chairman Dan O’Keefe wrote in the introduction to the Jan. 9 report.

“These alternatives presented to you today are built on a foundation of sound science, benefiting from an extensive and robust public outreach process. Each of these alternative plans will achieve state water quality standards. The work presented here is consistent with our broad portfolio of successful restoration activities such as Restoration Strategies, which when implemented has shown real-world results,” he continued.

By itself, an EAA reservoir would be static storage, and have little benefit to the northern estuaries. Any of the EAA reservoir alternatives would be constructed as part of the CEPP, which would convey more water from the lake to the reservoir and convey more water from the reservoir, through stormwater treatment areas, to the Everglades and on to Florida Bay.

The Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee will meet today, Jan. 17, starting at 12:30 p.m.

The meeting can be viewed online at http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/VideoSchedule.

 

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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