Proposal would scrap EAA reservoir plan
OKEECHOBEE – In the coming legislative session, the Florida Senate will consider a proposal to scrap plans for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, according to information shared in Okeechobee on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
“The Florida Senate is largely going to be focused on water quality,” Florida State Senator Ben Albritton told Okeechobee County officials and community members at the Okeechobee County Legislative Delegation hearing on Dec. 9 in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse.
“One of the initiatives that is going to be made ... and I certainly hope ends up being accomplished, is the planned reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is discontinued and a real sum of money is put into northern storage,” he said. “So at the end of the day, if you think about Lake Okeechobee as a bathtub, we control the drain ... but nothing really significiant has happened to the water coming out at the end of the spigot. So the ability to treat that water and store it in the aquifer and pull it back when we need it, and it not be just free-flowed into Lake Okeechobee to continue to compound our problems, makes sense to me,” he said.
Over the past two fiscal years, the State of Florida has given the South Florida Water Management District $100 million to “fast track” parts of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Plan (LOWRP) in order to expedite storage north of the lake. LOWRP includes 80 Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells, a Wetlands Attenuation Feature (WAF) and some wetlands restoration along the Kissimmee River. ASRs inject water that has been treated to drinking water standards into the aquifer. The WAF will cover about 13,600 acres and hold water up to 4 feet deep. The estimated pricetag for the ASR portion of the project, which includes most of the storage, is $400 million. The ASRs can be built on land the state already owns along the Kissimmee River and other waterways.