Source: South Florida Water Management District
Many projects are planned to restore the Indian River Lagoon, but the C-44 reservoir system is the first.

Protecting one of the biologically most diverse estuary systems in the continental U.S. is the goal of a Florida project now in the earliest stage of development. On Aug. 14, Shoreline Foundation Inc., West Park, Fla., won the contract to construct the C-44 system discharge for the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area in Martin County, Fla., a major component of the $13.5-billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

At approximately $5.4 million, the system-discharge contract is a tiny but critical piece of CERP, whose costs are equally shared by the federal government and Florida. Completing it will clear the way for hundreds of millions of dollars in other projects. The system discharge will be the single-point discharge for 50,600 acre-ft of local runoff water in the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area (STA). The STA will receive the water from the reservoir and cleanse it before discharging it to the C-44 Canal.

The West Palm Beach-based South Florida Water Management District, the state agency partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out CERP, recently opened bids for construction of the 6,000-acre STA and expects to award the contract in September. Blue Goose Construction, Ft. Pierce, Fla., was the apparent low bidder, at $100.8 million. Bids will be sought for other C-44 Project components over the next 10 months. Pump-station construction, estimated at up to $50 million, will be awarded in April 2015, says Orlando Ramos-Gines, Corps project manager. The reservoir, estimated at between $100 million and $250 million, will be awarded by July 2015, depending on the complexity of bid review, he says.

The system discharge "is the control structure that will regulate the release of water from the C-44 reservoir and STA project," says Jeff Kivett, division director of engineering and construction operations for the South Florida Water Management District. The C-44 project is one of several planned to "capture runoff water from basins into the reservoir, treat it through the STA and then release it back," says Ramos-Gines.

Treated runoff will drain to the St. Lucie River and estuary. C-44 will treat 39% of the total 130,000 acre-ft of water storage in the Indian River Lagoon South project, according to Ramos-Gines.

The St. Lucie estuary and Indian River Lagoon are "two of the country's most productive and most threatened estuaries," say Corps officials. The lagoon has suffered for years from degraded water quality, resulting from altered water-flow patterns, development and agriculture around its 827-sq-mile watershed.

Construction was completed in July on the intake canal and related facilities, which will draw water from the C-44 canal into the reservoir and STA for treatment. Phillips & Jordan Inc., Knoxville, performed the work on the $36.8-million contract. The STA and pump station are scheduled for completion in 2017 and the reservoir in 2019.