LaBelle, FL (STL.News) Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited the site of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir to break ground on the embankments and canals to complete this important Everglades restoration project. The Governor was joined by members of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as conservation groups, local community leaders and other environmental stakeholders.
“This is a big step forward in expediting one of our most important Everglades restoration projects,” said Governor DeSantis. “Once complete, the C-43 Reservoir will store approximately 55 billion gallons of water, with 19 miles of embankments and 15 miles of canals to reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee and help bring the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary back to health. I thank our partners at the South Florida Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection who I know will work hard to see this project through.”
The C-43 Reservoir will intercept and store water released from Lake Okeechobee as well as local stormwater runoff. The project will reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary during the wet season that can lead to harmful algal blooms. It will also allow water managers to deliver critical freshwater to the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary during the dry season when the estuary needs freshwater. The reservoir is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
“This is an exciting day for Florida’s Everglades and the Caloosahatchee Estuary,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This project will reduce the volume of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee during the wet season and provide critical freshwater flow to the Caloosahatchee during the dry season. I am confident this is one of many key projects that we will be able to celebrate over the next several years.”
The SFWMD is working to build approximately 19 miles of embankments, allowing the two-cell reservoir to hold 170,000 acre-feet of water, approximately 55.4 billion gallons, 15 miles of perimeter canals, 14 water control structures and public recreational features will all be incorporated into the completed site.
“As a longtime resident of Sanibel, it’s heartening to see Governor DeSantis’ strong commitment to expediting Everglades restoration and improving water quality for Southwest Florida,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss. “When this project is complete it will help moderate the harmful water releases that have had such a devastating impact on our estuaries and our Southwest Florida communities. It will also help improve the health of our estuaries during our dry season. Today, we are proud to break ground as we work to expedite completion of the reservoir to bring its benefits to our community sooner. This is all possible thanks to the leadership and hard work of Governor DeSantis.”
The SFWMD is partnering with DEP and local governments to evaluate water quality treatment options associated with the reservoir. A public process was launched this year to support a feasibility study to evaluate water quality improvement opportunities.
“The Caloosahatchee Reservoir is a lynchpin in restoring America’s Everglades,” said Shannon Estenoz, Chief Operating Officer of The Everglades Foundation. “The ability to provide freshwater to this vital estuary will protect Southwest Florida’s tourism, real estate and recreational economy. We thank the Governor for his continued leadership on restoring the Everglades.”
“Florida’s economy depends on clean water and healthy estuaries,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, Executive Director of Captains for Clean Water. “Governor DeSantis’ unprecedented request for Everglades funding and his commitment to expediting critical restoration projects will ensure our economy remains vibrant for generations to come. Today’s C-43 Reservoir groundbreaking is an important milestone and another step towards fixing our water. Thank you, Governor DeSantis for expediting this critical project and for directing the District to add a water quality component to further improve water quality.”
“We are thrilled to witness the progress being made on this critical restoration project,” said Marisa Carrozzo, Senior Environmental Policy Specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The C-43 Reservoir’s benefits are two-fold, storing water from the Caloosahatchee watershed and Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season and releasing water during the dry season when the downstream estuary desperately needs freshwater. We applaud the Governor, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for keeping forward momentum on reservoir construction and prioritizing the development of associated water quality treatment in order to reduce the nutrient pollution which has fueled harmful algal blooms in the Caloosahatchee.”
“Today marks the first step to complete a critical CERP project that will bring much-needed relief to the Caloosahatchee Estuary,” said West McCann, Audubon Florida Board Member. “This is a great day for Florida’s families and wildlife. Completing Everglades restoration projects will create additional flexibility to put water where it’s needed, when it’s needed, and keep it away from causing harm to our communities.”
“This project is a testament to the close partnership the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District have built over the years, and an example of what federal and non-federal partnerships can accomplish when we collaborate,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It is amazing to look back and appreciate that the funding for this project was a combination of local, state and federal monies to help us get to this point. We applaud the State of Florida and the SFWMD for funding the construction of this reservoir.”
The C-43 Reservoir and other critical environmental restoration projects were identified by Governor DeSantis in Executive Order 19-12 to be expedited and completed as quickly as possible. The SFWMD is working with DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite planning, permitting, design and construction projects. To learn more about the efforts to expedite these projects, please visit www.SFWMD.gov/AchieveMoreNow.