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Politics

SFWMD Board Gives 'Complete Package' Northern Water Storage an Admiring Look

April 14, 2017 - 8:00am
Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee

What makes storing water north of Lake Okeechobee so important -- the reason it's so favored over southern storage by South Florida Water Management District engineers -- is its complete flexibility.

"You can capture water in extreme-wet periods and release it back into the lake when it's dry," Matt Morrison told the District's Governing Board during Thursday's roll-out of the first round of modeling for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project. 

"More than anything, northern storage is going to help in those really punishing back-to-back year events, which are real challenges to our estuaries and their chance to recover."

Morrison, bureau chief of federal policy and coordination for the SFWMD, laid out each of three alternatives, including maps with possible above-ground storage, ASR wells and deep-well injection components, and said a fourth alternative offered by the Seminole Tribe in Brighton is still being evaluated.

The Watershed Project was developed to do four things north of the lake:

  • increase water storage capacity;
  • improve the quantity and timing of discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers;
  • restore/create habitat to increase the "spacial extent" and functionality of wetlands; and
  • improve existing and future water supply.

"And what we're doing here is consistent with the Integrated Delivery Schedule," Morrison explained. "The sequencing provides planning and implementation timelines so the beginning of one element coincides with the progress or completion of others."

Board members liked what they heard and one by one expressed their enthusiasm.

Member Melanie Peterson reiterated the importance of project "sequencing" and keeping the IDS on track. "It's like building a house," she said. "It's as important as putting the roof on before you hang the wallpaper in the kitchen."

By adhering to the Integrated Delivery Schedule, projects for northern storage will keep a minimum of 50 percent of lake discharges out of the St. Lucie River, the Watershed Project's modeling shows.

Water sent south from Lake O stays south.
 
After the meeting, when asked if the southern reservoir was ever intended to solve the problem of lake discharges, Director of Everglades Policy and Coordination Ernie Marks explained that no standalone restoration project will solve the massive discharges problem.

He said the plan for the ill-fated 60,000-acre A-1 was conceived in 2000, before lake discharges were considered a priority.

"The plan was basically to hydrate Florida Bay and for agriculture -- for 20,000 acres to go for environmental needs, 20,000 for the water supply and 20,000 for ag and the environment," said Marks. 

Not until 2013, a year of devastating releases and algal blooms, did anyone emphasize the need to include in CERP planning a stop to discharges.

By then, the district had halted work on the $800 million reservoir, first citing a separate lawsuit by environmental groups forcing Florida to reduce pollution flowing into the Everglades, then Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial deal to buy out U.S. Sugar Corporation's land inventory.

The halt to the A-1 Reservoir -- on which $300 million already had been spent -- set back Everglades restoration for years. It is why today many are edgy, fearful of "the next shiny thing" that will upset the apple cart, changing the order of CERP projects -- again.

Said Peterson after Thursday's Governing Board meeting, "Because of the harsh lesson learned from past disruptions of approved plans, I strongly advocate for following the publicly planned, scientifically based and taxpayer-conscious Integrated Delivery Schedule.

"I urge all Floridians to champion efforts that maintain the schedule and complete its projects. If this rational schedule of sequencing, constructing and operating changes, these projects will be delayed, while others face ultimate termination.

"History will repeat itself," she said.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 


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Comments

How does SFWMD plan to hydrate the Everglades, replenish Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade aquifers and restore the Seagrass in Florida Bay that is dying and and creating environment for Blue-Green Algae bloom due to hypersalinity? We see their idea north of the Lake but they never offer a solution that is helping to resolve the WHOLE issue of water movement from Orlando to Florida Bay. They only speak of a partial solution. Why is that??

Don't bother answering back, Nancy, these sugar bullies or bullsugars dont get to twist your suet this time. Negron put SB 10 completion in SFWMD hands if you read the bill. You were right when you said if they are so lousy why are they trusted with Negron's bill to save the coast and screw up the rest of the restoration?

I guess Ernie Marks did not confer with coastal residents before stating that before 2013 the discharges were not a major concern. With his cohorts at SFWMD and the growers maybe that's true. God, this agency is rife with sellouts. And Melanie Peterson should stick to what she knows--real estate and horses. Just a puppet, like the entire board. Can't wait until Scott and his gang of appointees are gone.

Every water manager at SFWMD should be fired. What do you not understand about aquifers being charges and salt water intrusion. Remember God made the RIver of grass. Man screwed it up. And btw I was at the Crossroads and the water was gorgeous. I'm going to clean up my kyack and put it by the river for easy access.

It appears Sunshine State News is funded by Big Sugar. There was no investigation at all by this reporter. U of F independent objective research concludes storing water south is as important as storing water north. Of course SFWMD doesn't want to store south because it too is controlled by Big Sugar.

My source is not and never has been Big Sugar. One hundred percent of the information for this story came from the South Florida Water Management District. The SFWMD -- not Big Sugar, not the Everglades Foundation, not the University of Florida, not the Senate president -- is the LEAD agency on Everglades restoration. You don't have to remember that, I suppose, but I do.

Nancy- SFWMD is big sugar! They need to put people over politics and all politicians taking money from big sugar need to go. These people have the balls to defend themselves and at the same time hold back the people that live in Glades. We all love farmers. Sugar is not a vegetable. I was out in the Glades a few weeks ago and I had the best fried chicken and awesome corn! But the leaders there have false narratives- sock puppets if you will. Big sugar apparently a lot of extra money to buy all the advertising they do instead of giving it to the people who live there to have a better life. Would love to see some awesome business's out there. Please take a moment to read. http://www.treasurecoast.com/journey-pahokee-glades-lives-matter/

Are you kid Nancy? The SFWMD is the political arm of big sugar.

Very good point, Nancy. Strangely the envirocrats don't invite your source to the table when they have to do the modeling and juggle all the balls.

More obfuscation by Big Sugar! There is nothing sacred about the IDS; it's a foil they use.

Right, Ted. They don't give us much credit for our knowledge. Or our mettle.

You must be a very rich man or a Democrat who doesn't care about wasting taxpayers money. Only a rich man wouldn't care how much it costs to keep starting cerp projects all over again. Lucky you, Mr. Guy.

Storage north of the Lake, and the use of the deep injection wells during rain events can substantially reduce the need to send too much fresh water out the C- 43 and C- 44 during rain events. The EAA reservoir was never intended to "save the estuaries" and, if in place,. the damaging discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee in 2013 and 2016 would still have occurred. If your objective is a meaningful reduction in the damaging discharges the Negron reservoir is a waste of time and $2.3 billion....Will take only 4 inches off a Lake rising by the foot...Taking the excess water out of the system before it gets to the Lake means the USACE will not be forced to send it east and west...

...and Florida Bay dies on the vine, right?

It makes too much sense for closed mind$ We all need to let Speaker Corcoran we're on his side in this.

Don't be so sure of "what side" Speaker Corcoran is on. We will be strongly lobbying him for the stoppage of unacceptable toxic discharges to our communities. He may just come over to the right side of this. We are hopeful.

There no dispute that most of water (and pollution) continues to come from north of Lake Okeechobee. It is easier to control both above the lake than below it. (Both land purchase and construction costs are cheaper above the lake too.) An EAA Reservoir has been on the books since before Everglades Restoration (CERP) was approved in 1999. (Sugar farmers fought and won for it to be the first project under CERP.) Eventually, there will be an EAA Reservoir. Getting it in 10 years or many years later will not make a real difference. Substantial increase in water storage has been needed, but not done while two decades have passed by. (Same for Lake O dam repairs which were not even acknowledged until after CERP had been approved.) Money is being made by many who fight instead of getting anything done. That needs to stop.

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