Gov. Scott: Expedited Water Project Will Help Reduce Harmful Lake Okeechobee Discharges
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last week, Governor Rick Scott announced that, under his direction, another key Everglades restoration project is moving forward ahead of schedule. This year, Governor Scott included funding to expedite this project in his recommended budget and then signed into law this investment of $6 million to begin construction on the S-333 expansion project by the end of the year. This expansion project will help reduce the harmful water releases from the Army Corps of Engineers from Lake Okeechobee by allowing more water to move south of the Lake. The federal government was not scheduled to begin construction on this project until 2022. The South Florida Water Management District expedited the design and permitting for this vital project, and now they will be taking the construction contract to the water management district’s governing board for approval next week.
Governor Scott said, “By expediting this important project in west Miami-Dade County, we are moving even more water south of Lake Okeechobee to help stop the algal blooms. Unfortunately, if it was up to the federal government, we’d be waiting four more years for this project to even get started. Federal bureaucracy and inaction getting in the way of important progress to help our environment and communities is unacceptable and doesn’t make sense. That’s why we’re not going to wait on the federal government and we are taking action and working to immediately minimize the impact of federal water releases. In Florida, we are working on long-term projects to fix this problem permanently. Thank you to the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for moving this important project forward.”
The existing S-333 structure is in Western Miami-Dade County and releases clean fresh water south from Water Conservation Area 3A into Everglades National Park. This expansion will nearly double the amount of water that can be moved south to approximately 2,500 cubic feet per second. Moving water out of Water Conservation Area 3A will ultimately allow more water to be moved south out of Lake Okeechobee, reducing the need for the Corps’ damaging discharges to Florida’s estuaries.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO, The Everglades Foundation, said, “The greatest threat to Everglades restoration is bureaucratic delay. After last year’s emergency high water levels in the Everglades, The Everglades Foundation asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to expedite key features of the Central Everglades Plan to deliver relief from emergency conditions sooner. The Department stepped up and secured funding from the Legislature to expand the S-333 structure to allow more water to move south. We thank the Governor, Secretary Valenstein, and the South Florida Water Management District for recognizing the urgent need to send water south.”
Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell said, "With both coasts suffering from algae blooms, it's never been more urgent to advance Everglades restoration projects like this. Expediting Central Everglades Projects like the S-333 structure will give water managers more flexibility to move water south where it's badly needed and keep it away from the estuaries. Increasing capacity on the south end of the Everglades to move water faster goes hand in hand with the southern reservoir expected to be congressionally authorized this year. Federal and state partners must build Everglades projects faster than ever before. Our communities and wildlife depend on it.”
Andy Walker, President and CEO of the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida said, “We applaud the Governor’s action on this critical project to move water south, the acceleration of the critical project not only helps to restore the Everglades and freshwater flow into Florida Bay, but will also protect Florida’s wildlife and estuaries.”
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said, “DEP continues to look for ways to partner with our local communities to help them address the impacts of algae blooms in their waters and to prevent federal discharges to these waters in the future. Governor Scott’s leadership and full support of important Everglades restoration projects like this one, the EAA reservoir and the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike is helping Florida take significant action to reduce discharges and increase water storage south of the Lake.”
The S-333 project is a major component of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a group of water storage and conveyance projects south of Lake Okeechobee that will allow additional clean water to be directed south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, where it is needed. CEPP is congressionally authorized yet, Congress still hasn’t provided federal funding.
Under Governor Scott’s leadership, Florida has expedited a number of key projects to clean, store and move water south in the Everglades. This includes the Governor’s historic Restoration Strategies Plan, the C-43 reservoir, the C-44 storm water treatment area, as well as the EAA Reservoir. Governor Scott is also the only Governor in Florida’s history to dedicate state funding to repair the federal Herbert Hoover Dike, investing $100 million in the project.