April 4, 2018

SOUTH FLORIDA —Florida’s two U.S. senators and 14 members of the state’s congressional delegation signed a letter last week urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly on the Everglades reservoir plan so Congress can earmark funding this fall for the $1.1 billion project.

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works must submit an approved plan to Congress by Oct. 1 for the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir to receive Water Resources Development Act funding.

Failure to do so could delay funding for at least two years for a project that the Florida Legislature voted to hasten in order to reduce harmful discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and to clean and deliver more water to the Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District, which the Legislature in 2017 directed to draft a plan, submitted its proposal March 26 to the federal government after it was approved earlier in the month by the district’s board.

Together with other Everglades restoration projects, the plan proposes to send an annual average of 370,000 additional acre-feet of clean water south to the Everglades to benefit the natural system. It is also expected to reduce discharges from the lake to the northern estuaries by 63 percent when combined with other projects.

“It’s now up to our federal partners to carry the momentum on southern storage,” SFWMD Chairman Dan O’Keefe said.

The additional flows are to be stored south of the lake in a 23-deep, 10,100-acre reservoir capable of holding almost 80 billion gallons. That water is to be cleaned in a 6,500-acre treatment marsh before being released into the Everglades. Previous estimates put the total cost of the project, which is to be shared by the state and federal government, at $1.4 billion.

Among those joining Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in signing last week’s letter were Congressman Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, who represents the Florida Keys, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, who represented the Keys prior to redistricting.