Central Everglades project-related reservoir OK’d; good but not enough, environmentalist says
- By Tyler Treadway
- Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:08 p.m.
Central Everglades-related reservoir OK’d; good but not enough, environmentalist says
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for a shallow reservoir that will help reduce, but by no means eliminate, discharges of Lake Okeechobee water into the St. Lucie Estuary.
The permit authorizes the South Florida Water Management District to build, operate and maintain the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin south of Lake O. The impoundment will cover more than 15,000 acres and hold nearly 2 billion gallons of water.
Construction of the basin is a prerequisite for the Central Everglades Planning Project, a $2 billion initiative to use publicly owned land to divert more water from Lake O to the Everglades.
The basin will contain vegetation to help reduce phosphorus concentrations before moving water to the stormwater treatment areas, man-made wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water before it is discharged into the Everglades.
Ernie Barnett, the water district’s interim director, said the basin is scheduled to be complete July 30, 2016.
Barnett said a second reservoir, aptly named A-2, will be built and “bolted onto the A-1 to make it twice as big,” as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project. Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said the basin construction will benefit the St. Lucie Estuary, as long as it’s a first step.
According to the society, the estuary receives an average of about 144 billion gallons a year from Lake Okeechobee; the Caloosahatchee River estuary on the west coast receives about 316 billion gallons a year.
“I’m glad (the state) is heading in the right direction,” Perry said, “but there’s a lot more that needs to be done to save our estuaries.”
Perry has proposed a plan that would complement the project and eliminate the Lake O discharges by requiring the purchase of 21,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land and 32,000 acres of Florida Crystals land to build a reservoir that would store 159 billion gallons of water.