Engineers in Florida are starting to plan for design and construction of a new $1.5-billion water-storage facility in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The facility, approved by the state Legislature and the governor in May, will capture excess water from the lake and reduce and eventually eliminate the discharges of polluted water to estuaries that have been blamed for last summer’s toxic blue-green algae blooms on both coasts.
The new flow equalization basin will temporarily store peak stormwater flows and allow water managers to move the water at a steady rate to stormwater treatment areas, constructed wetlands where natural processes cleanse the water. The reservoir will be built on the 14,000-acre A-2 parcel adjacent to the existing A-1 basin constructed in 2015. Its authorized storage of 240,000 to 360,000 acre-ft will dwarf the A-1 basin’s 60,000-acre-ft capacity. Most of the A-2 parcel is owned by the state; privately owned parcels will be acquired by land swaps or purchases. The Legislature rejected a bill seeking $200 million to help fund federal repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake.
The schedule for the A-2 project is to be determined. The South Florida Water Management District is just starting to interpret the legislation and cannot yet comment on engineering details, a spokesman says. The state and federal governments will fund the A-2 project in equal parts.
Rep. Brian Mast (R) has introduced a bill in Congress directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite required reports and construction of several Everglades-related water storage projects, including the A-2 reservoir.