Billion-Dollar Reservoir for Florida Everglades Thanks to Federal Contract

Image by emisoo2 from Pixabay 

A federal bill worth $1.6B gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority to begin planned water development projects, including a reservoir for the Everglades. The 10,100-acre, $1.6 billion Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project would begin as planned under a bill adopted by the U.S. House. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 passed the House in a voice vote last week after it was approved unanimously July 15 by the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.

U.S. Representative Brian Mast, R-Stuart, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio were among Florida officials who accused the Corps of violating Congress’ will in attempting to delay the EEA project, especially when there was so much momentum in getting the long-planned project started this year.

For only the second time in 20 years, the federal government agreed this year to ante up its full, annual $200 million commitment to Everglades restoration.

President Donald Trump announced in December he would boost his Everglades funding request by more than $130 million from the $63 million he first sought. The federal funding coincides with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ four-year, $2.5 billion state-funded Everglades restoration plan. The first two years have been approved by lawmakers, including more than $625 million in this year’s spending plan.

The red ring at right shows the location of the reservoir and the stormwater treatment area. (Map Courtesy Florida State Senate Office of the President). Photo and Caption:

“For decades, Florida’s coastal communities have been on the receiving end of toxic discharges, including recently, discharges that have tested more than 60 times more toxic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for human contact,” Mast said. “These discharges put public health at risk, damage the economy and destroy the environment. We have worked tirelessly to fight these discharges, and passing this legislation is a critical step in the right direction.”

The STA project, with an estimated cost of $150 million, is part of the estimated $1.6-billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir project, which is being built to receive water from Lake Okeechobee polluted by agricultural runoff and cleanse it before sending it on to the southern Everglades. The water currently must be discharged east and west to rivers to prevent damage to the Herbert Hoover Dike enclosing Okeechobee.

The South Florida Water Management District’s governing board issued the notice of intent to award the contract to Ryan Inc. Southern to construct canals and a levee for the stormwater treatment area in Palm Beach County on March 13. The company bid  $12.93 million for the project. Bids for the work ranged from $27.92 million down to Ryan’s $12.93 million, which was 67% below the engineer’s estimate of $38.8 million.

Under an 18-month contract, Ryan will construct 3.4 miles of inflow/outflow levees and canals on the north side of the 6,500-acre A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area (STA), says Marcus Thermes, vice president. Canal excavation will total 1.6 million cu yd, with 0.6 million cu yd going to levee construction. H&R of Belle Glade Inc., a local contractor, cleared and demucked the cane fields to prepare for this contract.

The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large drainage basin within the Neotropical realm.Throughout the 20th century, the Everglades suffered significant loss of habitat and environmental degradation.  The ecosystem it forms is not presently found anywhere else on earth. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee.