Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet voted to expedite the construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project on Tuesday.
During the Cabinet meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund approved the early termination of a state lease with Florida Crystals on lands needed for the EAA Reservoir Project. At the start of the month, DeSantis announced the voluntary early termination of Florida Crystals’ leases for the stormwater treatment area (STA) component of the EAA Reservoir Project by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Back in January, DeSantis issued an executive order and called for the SFWMD to immediately start the next phase of the project design and help ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.
“A clean, safe and abundant water supply is critical to Florida’s future,” DeSantis said on Tuesday. “Today’s action will accelerate construction of the EAA Reservoir Project and help ensure we achieve the directives set forth in my executive order. We are proceeding full steam ahead on this critical project to reduce harmful discharges and help send more clean water south of the Everglades.”
“The governor and Cabinet’s action today represents a key step in advancing the governor’s priority of expediting Everglades restoration,” said DEP Sec. Noah Valenstein. “The department will continue to work closely with the South Florida Water Management District and other partners to aggressively restore and protect the iconic Everglades.”
“When Governor DeSantis took office, he committed to expediting critical Everglades restoration projects that reduce harmful discharges to the coastal estuaries and send more water south where it’s needed,” said Chauncey Goss, the chairman of the SFWMD. “Today’s vote by the Governor and Cabinet upholds his strong commitment to expediting the EAA Reservoir Project. This vote allows the South Florida Water Management District to continue its path of expedited construction. Thank you to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for your action to help save the Everglades.”
“The termination of the lease with Florida Crystals on lands owned by the state of Florida is a necessary and critical step towards fulfilling Governor DeSantis’ commitment to advancing Everglades restoration,” said Erik Eikenberg, the CEO of The Everglades Foundation. “We applaud the governor and Cabinet for taking this corrective action to expedite construction of the Everglades reservoir project, which will cut polluted water discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers by more than half and send clean freshwater south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.”
“The vote today ensured that the entirety of the land needed to build this STA is available, removing the very last roadblock to get us to be reservoir-ready,” said Julie Wraithmell, the executive director of Audubon Florida. “After the recent seagrass die-off in Florida Bay (2015) and the multi-year toxic algal blooms affecting the northern estuaries, there’s no time to waste in increasing our capacity to send more clean, freshwater south where it’s needed the most.”
The EAA Reservoir Project is a joint Everglades restoration project between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the SFWMD. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will construct the storage reservoir and the District will construct the water-cleansing STA. The SFWMD is already conducting geotechnical work on the project site and will begin site preparations as soon as the permits for the project are approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ stated schedule for reservoir construction is not impeded by any leases.