WELLINGTON, Fla. – Federal construction of the long-awaited Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, designed to improve water flows in the heart of the Everglades, can begin soon after the South Florida Water Management District board unanimously approved an agreement Thursday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction.
The project partnership agreement was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday morning upstream from the Everglades National Park in Wellington.
Pedro Ramos, superintendent of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, said the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the Everglades and the Florida Bay will all benefit from the EAA Reservoir. The greenlight for the largest part of a plan to clean water and reserve excess water run offs from Lake Okeechobee was given on Earth Day.
“We are — through these projects — giving mama Earth, on Earth Day, the best chance, and resiliency to withstand the impacts of climate change of sea-level rise,” Ramos said.
SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chancey Gas was beaming as he announce the unanimous vote by the board to approve the agreement. He says the project is “one of the most important ways to fix our Everglades ecosystem.”
Florida’s water woes begin far from the southern part of the state as all waterways eventually flow into the Everglades, including polluted water runoff.
“The 17,000-acre project combines two major features a natural wetland to clean water, and a massive storage reservoir to store excess Lake Okeechobee water, the state of Florida is building a wetland component, just like the one you see behind me today. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a reservoir component, which will store 240,000, acre-feet of water,” Gas said.
Instead of sending Lake Okeechobee water runoff into estuaries, causing algae blooms and other hazards, the reservoir and wetland will divert that runoff.
“It’s really a game-changer for ecosystem restoration and protecting our communities and our estuary economies,” Gas said.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, construction of the 6,500-acre wetland component of the project began in April and is expected to be complete by 2023.
DeSantis said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will likely begin building the 10,500-acre, above-ground reservoir component of the project later this year. According to the SFWMD, it will hold 240,000 acre-feet of water when complete.