SFWMD, Corps of Engineers Ready to Start Work on Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project

This week, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reached an agreement to have the Corps start work on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project.

“The EAA Reservoir Project is one of the most important Everglades restoration projects for reducing harmful discharges to the northern estuaries and sending more clean water south to the Everglades,” Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office noted. “The EAA Reservoir Project is a joint Everglades restoration project between the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…The South Florida Water Management District began building the water-cleansing marsh called a Stormwater Treatment Area last year, and today’s agreement enables the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the accompanying storage reservoir. The EAA Reservoir Project will benefit both Florida’s environment and economy. In addition to more clean water for the Everglades, the project is creating jobs and providing a significant boost to the nearby local economies south of Lake Okeechobee.”

DeSantis weighed in on the agreement on Thursday

“Today marks a critical milestone for Everglades restoration and achieving our state’s long-term environmental goals,” said DeSantis. “When I took office, I made expediting the EAA Reservoir Project a top priority. Signing this agreement means we are another step closer to moving more clean water south through the Everglades and reducing harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.”

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, DEP and the South Florida Water Management District have expedited the state’s portion of the EAA Reservoir project, beginning construction 12 months ahead of schedule,” said state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Sec. Noah Valenstein. “The signing of the Project Partnership Agreement today is an important step that will enable the Corps to initiate construction of the federal portion of this project. I challenge the Corps to match the state’s momentum and sense of urgency on this critical project that will significantly reduce harmful discharges to the northern estuaries and send more water south for the benefit of the Everglades ecosystem and the people of Florida.”

“Three short years ago, the oddsmakers would have been betting heavily against us standing here today. Moving forward on the construction of the EAA reservoir has been an uphill battle. But we are here today, and we are moving forward with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Chauncey Goss, the chairman of the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board. “This is simply a testament to how government can work for the people when strong leaders engage. Governor DeSantis has kept his eyes firmly on the prize and has never wavered in his support of this project, even when it was politically expedient to throw in the towel. Because of his leadership, along with support from the Florida Legislature, and dedication of the SFWMD Governing Board ​and staff, we are moving full steam ahead to complete the EAA Reservoir Project. Today’s agreement is critical to restoring the health of our estuaries and the Everglades, and we look forward to the U.S. Army Corps breaking ground on their portion of the EAA Reservoir Project as soon as possible.”

Environmental advocates praised the agreement and Florida’s leadership.

“We are here because of the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, who listened to the people of Florida and put completion of this critical reservoir on a fast track,” said Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation. “It would not have happened without the tenacious determination of former Senate President Joe Negron, who was steadfast in making this project a reality. Thanks to their persistence, we begin construction a full year ahead of schedule. Completion of the EAA Reservoir, together with others already under construction, will reduce algae-causing discharges from Lake Okeechobee by more than half and provide a source of life-giving fresh clean water to America’s Everglades and Florida Bay.”

“The EAA Reservoir is the indispensable component to stop the Lake Okeechobee discharges once and for all,” said former state Senate President Joe Negron. “Early on Governor DeSantis promised the citizens of Florida that he would build this Reservoir.  He kept his word and never wavered.  That is why we are here this morning — victorious.”

Federal officials, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,  also weighed in on the announcement.

“Today’s announcement is great news for Florida,” Rubio said. “The EAA reservoir is a critical piece of infrastructure that will move Everglades restoration forward and reduce the threat that harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee pose to our coastal communities.”

“I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure the federal commitment to this historic project continues,” Rubio continued. “We can never allow another decade of bureaucratic mismanagement and delays to block us from realizing our long-standing goal of restoring, preserving and protecting Florida’s ecosystems, while equitably and effectively managing our region’s water resources,”

“I made a promise on the Floor of the United States House of Representatives shortly after I was sworn into Congress that fixing our water quality would be my top priority, and passing legislation to authorize the EAA reservoir was a critical step toward doing that. The construction of the EAA reservoir is the single most important Everglades restoration project that will help end toxic discharges permanently,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.  “Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the state began construction on their portion of the project a year ahead of schedule, but the federal government has bogged the project down with unnecessary bureaucracy. The signing of this agreement will hopefully bring an end to this obstruction and should be heralded as a major accomplishment towards cleaning up Florida’s waterways.”

“The EAA Reservoir is a cornerstone project that will help keep Everglades National Park wetlands and Florida Bay supplied with fresh, clean water, especially during the drier months when we need it,” said Pedro Ramos, the superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks. “This is an important step forward and the greatest gift for the Everglades on this Earth Day.”

“The signing of this agreement is an important event as we continue the journey to restore the Everglades with our state partners,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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