EAA reservoir plans move forward

OKEECHOBEE — The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir project plans continue to move forward.

On June 4, Everglades Foundation COO Shannon A. Estenoz issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of plans for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir: “We are pleased the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the plans submitted by the South Florida Water Management District for the Everglades Reservoir.

“The Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are to be applauded, as both entities agencies acted with diligence and speed, reflecting the importance of the Everglades Reservoir to Florida and to America’s Everglades.

“Time is of the essence in completing this vital project, and we urge the Office of Management and Budget to review and approve it with equal speed so that it can be authorized by Congress.”

On March 26, 2018, the South Florida Water Management District submitted its plan for the EAA Storage Reservoir to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works for federal review, approval and submittal to Congress. In accordance with state law, the Post Authorization Change Report (PACR) seeks to increase the storage, treatment and conveyance of the congressionally authorized Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

The Tentatively Selected Plan was developed to meet the goals set forth by the Florida Legislature when it passed Senate Bill 10 and to be consistent with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The plan will reduce damaging discharges to the northern estuaries, deliver clean water for Everglades restoration and achieve water quality standards.

The plan was approved by the SFWMD Governing Board on March 8, 2018, and submitted to the Assistant Secretary along with an independent peer review that found the report to be technically sound.

The EAA reservoir will hold 240,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover one foot of land, 1 foot deep.

As part of CEPP, the EAA reservoir will be a dynamic reservoir with water flowing in from the lake and out to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

However, until the other CEPP projects are completed, that won’t happen. During the wet season, there is already more freshwater north of the Tamiami Trail than the current water conveyance system can move south to the Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. (Flow through some existing water control structures is also restricted from March 1 to July 15 to preserve the nesting area of the endangered Cape Sable Sea Sparrow.)

Without the rest CEPP, the EAA reservoir will be static storage and will have limited impact on the lake releases to coastal estuaries.

How does the storage capacity compare with current flows?

Current flow from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries is capped at 5,800 cfs (with up to 4,000 cfs going to the Caloosahatchee and up to 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie. (Note that the 1,800 cfs measurement is taken at the St. Lucie Lock, so if there is runoff directly into the C-44 canal between Port Mayaca and the St. Lucie Lock, there is less capacity to take flow from Lake Okeechobee).

That 5,800 cfs converts to about 11,504 acre feet per day (or about 3.7 billion gallons per day).

If the reservoir were empty at the start of the rainy season, and that flow were diverted to a 240,000 acre ft. reservoir, the reservoir would be full in about three weeks. Consider, however, that due to rainfall south of the lake, the reservoir would not be empty at the start of the rainy season, and that rainfall directly into the reservoir would continue to take up part of storage capacity throughout the rainy season.

With the other CEPP projects, the plan will move 370,000 acre feet a year of clean water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, according to the SFWMD report.
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 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.

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

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