The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) continues expediting the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project. The District has submitted permit applications to the Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to begin clearing land for the project. Implementing Governor DeSantis’ “Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment” Executive Order, the District has accelerated the initiation of construction by 18 months.
“This is great. We are moving forward on this reservoir project at full speed under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis because it is a crucial component of the overall plan to restoring America’s Everglades,” said SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett. “The permit applications are the latest major milestone that will get this project built and its benefits realized in the foreseeable future.”
Late Tuesday, SFWMD applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection for permits to allow the District to clear a 700-foot-wide strip of land, encompassing about 690 acres on the site of the proposed EAA Reservoir Project.
This work will prepare the land to build a canal and perimeter levee for the project’s stormwater treatment area. The canal will feed water diverted from Lake Okeechobee through existing canals into the 240,000 acre-foot reservoir and stormwater treatment area. The proposed A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area will treat and cleanse water before it is sent to the Southern Everglades.
The 690 acres needed is currently leased by the Florida Crystals Corporation for agricultural use. Florida Crystals has committed to ensuring the District has access to leased land to expedite this critical restoration work. SFWMD has requested that Florida Crystals begin preparing to transition land to the District.
SFWMD expects to receive the permits and complete the preparation work for the levee and canal by the end of the year, allowing crews to start excavating the intake canal next year. Once the levee, canal and STA are complete, SFWMD can use the STA to cleanse southbound water even before the reservoir itself is completed.
“The residents of South Florida need and deserve the environmental benefits of this project. We are here to deliver this project as soon as possible,” Bartlett added. “Every component of the EAA Reservoir Project is being expedited to restore and protect our natural water resources, and (this) announcement is good news for Floridians.”
Following the announcement that the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project would be expedited, reaction from stakeholders and officials was quick and positive.
“Accelerating construction on the EAA Reservoir Project by a full year and a half is a giant leap forward,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss. “This Governing Board is fully committed to implementing Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order and advancing this critical Everglades restoration project in a timely manner. This acceleration demonstrates that commitment.”
“Today’s announcement is a step forward toward completing the long-overdue Everglades Reservoir. The new leadership of the South Florida Water Management District should be congratulated for making this project a priority,” said Eric Eikenberg, Chief Executive Officer of The Everglades Foundation. “This is a necessary initial component of the larger project that is critical to our waterways and must be implemented expeditiously. Only by the reservoir becoming fully operational can we address our continuing water challenges, and Florida cannot afford to wait.”
“Kudos to the South Florida Water Management District for pushing to begin work for canals to serve the future Everglades reservoir,” said Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director at Audubon Florida. “This urgently needed project has a lot of moving parts and will take time to complete as South Florida can ill-afford any delays. The Governor and Legislature provided real leadership this year with historic appropriations to Everglades Restoration, and Audubon is thrilled to see the District translating this urgency into action.”
“The environmental benefits of the EAA Reservoir Project are now within sight,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. “Reducing damaging discharges to our coastal communities and sending more water south are exactly what Floridians have been asking for and deserve. Gov. DeSantis’ leadership continues accelerating this project, and today we are one step closer to completing this important project.”
About the EAA Reservoir
SFWMD created the plan for the EAA Reservoir. Together with authorized projects, the EAA Reservoir will send an annual average of approximately 370,000 additional acre-feet of clean water south to the Southern Everglades that will be protected by rule or reservation to benefit the natural system. It 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. For additional information related to the EAA Reservoir visit www.sfwmd.gov/eaareservoir.
Provided by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)