Environment News Service (ENS)

$37 Million Approved for Everglades Water Quality Project

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

Lee County last week approved $10 million toward purchasing land for a project to improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee River, contributing toward restoration of water quality in the northern Everglades.

Two days later, the state of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District approved a memo of agreement that will add $27 million to Lee County's funds. The money will be used to acquire 1,770 acres along the river, where a water quality treatment and testing facility will be built.

Using treatment cells and technologies the district says are now under development, the project will provide water quality improvements in the Caloosahatchee River.

Water managers are targeting at least 1,335 acres out of the 1,770 acres of land about eight miles east of LaBelle in Glades County for the water quality project. It will remove nutrients and sediments from water flowing into the Caloosahatchee River.

When complete, the facility will compliment the C-43 West Storage Reservoir to improve the quantity, timing and delivery of water into the Caloosahatchee River and estuary.

Located on 10,000 acres of former farmland in Hendry County south of the river, the West Reservoir will hold approximately 170,000 acre-feet of water, with a range in depth from 15 to 25 feet. It will comprise a major portion of the total water storage requirement for the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

The reservoir will capture and store local basin runoff and a portion of regulatory releases from Lake Okeechobee, reducing harmful discharges to the coastal estuaries, improving the health of the ecosystem and revitalizing fish and oyster habitats by maintaining salinity levels.

'This agreement embodies the spirit of mutually supportive efforts to benefit the environment,' said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. 'Local citizens, county leaders, environmental groups, state scientists, engineers and water managers all worked together to address common water quality concerns with the river.'

'We commend Lee County for its commitment to this outstanding project, which will benefit the entire region and its residents,' Buermann said.

'Execution of this agreement by Lee County is the culmination of our efforts to develop and expedite projects for the protection of the Caloosahatchee River and estuary,' said Bob Janes, Lee County Commission Chairman.

'The Lee County Board of County Commissioners is thrilled to join the state and district as partners dedicated to making protection of Lee County's precious natural resources a reality. This is a vital first step and demonstrates the commitment of Lee County to work with our partners.'

The Caloosahatchee River water storage and water quality projects are a part of the state’s plan to restore the northern Everglades.

The 2007 Florida Legislature this year expanded the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act to safeguard and restore the entire northern Everglades system, including the Lake Okeechobee watershed as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries.

Over the next two years, the law calls for the development of plans to protect and improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water north of Lake Okeechobee. These plans are intended to augment and enhance restoration under way in the remnant Everglades south of the lake.

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