Everglades reservoir project could take years, official says
After receiving legislative approval last spring, a massive reservoir intended to help shift water south from Lake Okeechobee remains years away from reality, the head of the South Florida Water Management District said Wednesday.
A big factor in the timeline for design and construction of the reservoir is waiting for federal-government approval of its half of the roughly $1.6 billion project, district Executive Director Ernie Marks told members of the House Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee.
The federal money — needed to trigger two to three years of design work and five to six years of construction — could conservatively take two years to secure, Marks estimated based on past federal performance and authorizations.
“If we had the funding to do it, we could move forward tomorrow. But we need a commitment from our federal partners that they’re going to pay that half,” Marks said. “We need a commitment from the federal partners that they’re going to open the southern end of the system, because I don’t think it does any of the taxpayers any good to have a giant water resource project out there that we can’t operate.”
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Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, last year made a top priority of passing a bill to create the reservoir. The idea is to move water south from Lake Okeechobee into the reservoir instead of releasing it into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Southeast and Southwest Florida.