A permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has cleared the way for construction to begin on the A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area, a constructed wetland in South Florida. Costing an estimated $207.8 million, it will be the first major component of the $1.8-billion project to construct the A-2 Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.

The reservoir will receive and store water from Lake Okeechobee contaminated by agricultural runoff, and slowly release it to the stormwater treatment area for treatment. Currently, the contaminated water is often discharged to estuaries on the east and west coasts of the state, where it has been blamed for spawning toxic algal blooms.

The 6,500-acre A-2 STA is expected to be constructed and placed into operation well ahead of the reservoir. It will cleanse the water from the reservoir before releasing it to flow south through the Everglades.

The STA project is now in preliminary design by Brown and Caldwell, with bidding for construction scheduled between October 2020 and February 2021.

Early construction on the STA is already in progress. H&R of Belle Glade Inc. began clearing and grubbing the inflow/outflow canal on April 20. Ryan Inc. Southern was awarded the canal construction in March and is scheduled to start work in May. STA completion is scheduled for March 2024.

The South Florida Water Management District is responsible for the STA construction, while the Corps of Engineers is responsible for construction of the 240,000-acre-ft A-2 Reservoir, also known as the EAA Reservoir. USACE is proceeding with in-house design of the reservoir, now scheduled to begin construction in 2024 and be completed in 2028.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, called the announcement of the EAA reservoir’s construction start “welcome news both for our environment and our economy.” Eikenberg added: “Its completion, together with other projects already underway, will reduce algae-causing discharges by more than half. . . . After more than 20 years, we are finally moving forward with a project that will deliver massive amounts of clean, fresh water south to the Everglades.”

USACE chalked up another Everglades achievement on April 30, when it awarded a $41.4-million contract to Bauer Foundation Corp. for the final section of the cutoff wall required for rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, the earthen structure surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The contract, which calls for construction of 4.1 miles of cutoff wall through the dike’s embankment near Lakeport, Fla., is scheduled for completion by summer 2022.

Bauer’s bid was $1.5 million below the budget estimate of $42.9 million, a USACE spokeswoman says. The work is aimed at addressing the risk of failure due to seepage and piping through the embankment and foundation of the dike.