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Caulkins Water Farm Wins Don Voss River Advocate Award in Martin County

Caulkins Water Farm, one of the few truly good-news projects to emerge on the Treasure Coast since blue-green algae began fouling the St. Lucie estuary, has received one of Keep Martin Beautiful's 12 2018 Environmental Stewardship Awards.

Caulkins Water Farm
The "farm" was presented with the River Advocate Award -- named in memory of clean-water advocate Capt. Don Voss, who died in 2017. 

The property, run by a public-private partnership, was a citrus grove that fell victim to greening. It now serves as a receiving and holding reservoir for water from Lake Okeechobee and the C-44 watersheds.

Said George Caulkins, president of Caulkins Citrus Co., who accepted the award, "Caulkins Water Farm and its team remains committed to doing what it can to help preserve and protect Martin County’s waterways from damaging discharges. I am hopeful our success and speed to completion will encourage other public-private partnerships to come online and help save our estuaries. I am humbled and honored to receive this recognition as we all work together to help improve water quality in our region.”

The award names Caulkins and his two partners, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The water farm is a big deal generally -- but especially for Martin County folks. It holds the promise of relief to the St. Lucie River and Indian River estuaries from deluges of polluted water -- up to half of the water storage needed to reduce annual Lake Okeechobee discharges by 90 percent.

As a pilot project started in 2013, the farm along Citrus Boulevard in western Martin County was 413 acres. The expansion to 3,200 acres now will allow an annual 35 billion gallons of water to be stored and treated on site.

"There's no other water storage like ours," Caulkins said at the farm's September dedication. "We're 500 yards from the center of the C-44, and we sit on about 150 feet of white sand."

The farm will also cleanse billions of gallons of water while recharging the aquifer, capturing about 75 percent of the phosphorous and 50 percent of the nitrogen that otherwise would foul Martin County's estuaries

Said Eva Velez, who oversees Everglades restoration, including the water storage sites, for the South Florida Water Management District, "A lot of water can be pumped onto the property for the size of its footprint. That's why this water farm is so special -- the water goes downward faster than it goes sideways."

It's all that sand, said Caulkins: "With the kind of geology we've got, we may never have to turn off the pumps."

The annual Martin County event annually recognizes outstanding efforts in community beautification and revitalization, litter and marine debris removal, product innovations and environmental education initiatives.

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