With the close of 2017 and now the start of 2018, the team of professionals from the Army Corps, Jacksonville District, continues to make positive progress hand-in-hand with USACE partners from the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of the Interior and many other agencies implementing the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) program.
“As I have done in the past, the New Year and the annual gathering of the stakeholders at the Everglades Coalition provides a great time for a progress update,” said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander at the Everglades Coalition Conference Jan. 6, 2017 in Fort Myers, Fla.
This ambitious and largest aquatic ecosystem restoration program includes a series of projects designed to address four major characteristics of water flow: quantity, quality, timing, and distribution.
“In close coordination and through our partnership with state, federal, tribal, and local interests, we continue to undertake the planning, design and construction activities that will achieve environmental benefits and restoration of some of the historic flows to the “river of grass“,” added Col. Kirk.
According to him, North of Lake Okeechobee, USACE has recently awarded the final contract needed to complete the Kissimmee River Restoration project. “We continue planning activities to formulate alternatives to store water north of the lake as part of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project with our selection of a tentative plan early this year.”
“East of the lake, the Corps and our partners at the water management district continue construction of features at the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area component of the Indian River Lagoon-South project,” continued Col. Kirk. The reservoir will store up to 15 feet of water on 3,400 acres while the stormwater treatment area will help clean water as it finds its way back into the St. Lucie Canal (C-44).
West of the lake, the water management district is working on the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project. This 10,500 acre reservoir will capture and store water from the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) during the wet season so it can be released when needed during the dry season to maintain an appropriate mix of saltwater and freshwater in the Caloosahatchee Estuary near Fort Myers.
“Near Naples, we expect to reach another milestone in 2018 at the Picayune Strand Restoration Project when the Miller Pump Station is complete. The three pump stations constructed by the Corps direct water to wetlands to help restore habitat in the Picayune Strand State Forest,” said Col. Kirk.
South of Lake Okeechobee, the Corps is working to refine plans for the first constructable elements of Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) that Congress authorized in 2016. CEPP’s focus is construction of features that improve conveyance of water into the Southern Everglades. Features include degrading levees in Water Conservation Area 3 and increasing capacity of water control structures that will improve flow toward Everglades National Park.
Also in the southern Everglades, the Corps continues construction on features associated with the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) and C-111 South Dade projects. These features will allow water managers to send more flow into Northeast Shark River Slough while providing flood mitigation for property owners in the area.
Finally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander concluded that on Lake Okeechobee, USACE continues rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike. “We’re more than half-way complete with this critical effort to reduce the risk to the aging dike and we’re now working with a renewed statement of Administration support and the helpful contribution of $50 million from the State of Florida.”