Shallow reservoir proposed north of Lake Okeechobee

OKEECHOBEE — As the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) moves through the planning phase, some changes have been proposed by the Project Delivery Team (PDT).

The plans previously under consideration include reservoirs in Glades County, north of Lake Okeechobee, ranging from 5 to 15 feet in pool depth.

A new plan uses a reservoir with an average depth of 4 feet, with a half-mile buffer around the reservoir. This feature would be operated more like a flow-through wetland for storage, providing both storage and wetland benefits.

“Stakeholder input is a key component of this planning effort and we have taken this into consideration as we developed the proposed tentatively selected plan for the project,” explained Jenn Miller of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “In response to concerns raised during the plan formulation process, the project team has revised the proposed tentatively selected plan for the project.

“In addition to the originally proposed 80 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells, the proposed tentatively selected plan includes a 12,000-acre wetland attenuation feature. The primary purpose of the wetland attenuation feature is to provide water storage with ancillary habitat benefits,” she continued.

“It is anticipated that the project will provided 448,000 acre-feet of storage per year, 400 million gallons per day (MGD) from the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells, and 48,000 acre-feet from the wetland attenuation feature.

“The estimated 48,000 acre-feet of water storage from the wetland attenuation feature is based on a static volume, but it will be operated dynamically, which will provide more than 48,000 acre-feet during operations.

“We will also be restoring 5,300 acres of wetlands along the historic Kissimmee River, which will provide ancillary water storage benefits as well,” she added.

“The features of the proposed tentatively selected plan provide features that will enable us to get to construction as quickly as possible. Additionally, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed project is unique to other restoration projects within the system. It provides direct benefits to Lake Okeechobee by helping to control a healthy lake stage envelope, by having more flexibility to maintain the lake within the preferred range of 12.5 to 15.5 feet.”

The changes to the proposed plans were presented at the May 2 LOWP PDT meeting. A draft of the plan is scheduled for release June 29. The public review and comment period will be June 29 through Aug. 13. Public meetings to review the plans are planned for early July.

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