Public can weigh in on reservoir below Lake Okeechobee
The public has until July 24 to put in their comments about the expanded storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
After Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 10 and activists lobbied in Washington, D.C., the Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to fast-track the review of a new reservoir area in the Everglades Agricultural Area just south of the lake, proposed by South Florida Water Management District.
The Corps is undertaking the review of an environmental impact statement of the new area, and must take public comment as part of the process.
The comment period is open from June 8 to July 24; the Corps and SFWMD also held public meetings June 26, 27 and 28 in Lehigh Acres, Clewiston and Stuart for the public to make comments on the draft environmental report.
"We do support the project. We appreciate all your work, and the expedited timeline. Fabulous," said Rae Ann Wessel, director of Natural Policy for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Wessel was one of those who trekked to D.C. to ask for this new piece of the puzzle.
One storage area, called A-1, is already approved in the EAA. It was approved as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project. CEPP was authorized in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act, which is federal legislation that authorizes projects for funding. Part of another area, A-2, was also approved.
But to add in the new storage area into the A-2 parcel, and its stormwater treatment area, the CEPP has to be amended through WRDA.
The reservoir project as a whole will cost $1.301 billion, in a state-federal cost share.
WRDA is up for reauthorization in the fall, so the Corps has to hustle to get the report on A-2 finished in time.
"This is a very aggressive schedule. This is not the norm," said Gina Ralph, the environmental lead for the Corps.