DEP Issues Permit for Major Everglades Restoration Project

TALLAHASSEE –The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for the first major construction project as part of Governor Rick Scott’s Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan — to the South Florida Water Management District authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the largest component to be constructed in the historic plan.

Governor Scott said, “I was proud to work with environmental stakeholders to create our $880 million plan to fully restore the Everglades. This session, we secured $70 million in the Florida Families First Budget to take on important projects– and today is a major step forward in restoring this natural treasure.”

The A-1 Flow Equalization Basin is a more than 15,000-acre shallow impoundment area — or reservoir — south of Lake Okeechobee designed to store approximately 60,000 acre-feet of stormwater. The primary objective of the project, the largest of three flow equalization basins identified in the plan, is to reduce the impact of peak stormwater flows through temporarily storage and work in tandem with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to optimize treatment efficiency.

This Flow Equalization Basin is a shallow impoundment that will also contain vegetation to help reduce phosphorus concentrations before moving water to the stormwater treatment areas. Stormwater treatment areas are constructed, carefully managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.

“We have to continue moving forward with meaningful projects that impact the Everglades,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “DEP, the South Florida Water Management District and all our stakeholders are working together to get the water right and improve the quality and flow of water going to the Everglades.”

To address water quality concerns associated with existing flows to the Everglades Protection Area, the Department, Water Management District and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engaged in technical discussions starting in 2010. The Governor’s plan was presented to EPA in the Fall of 2011. After coordination with EPA, the final plan was included in permits and orders issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in September of 2012.

In May, Governor Scott signed into law HB 7065, which provides $32 million annually in state funding for the Governor’s $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan. The goal of the plan is to improve water quality and water flow throughout the Everglades. Improvements to the health of the Everglades ecosystem are important for fish and animal habitat as well as the health of the South Florida economy. The Water Management District has already achieved several milestones ahead of schedule.

 “Continuing Everglades water quality improvements remains one of the South Florida Water Management District’s highest priorities,” said SFWMD Interim Executive Director Ernie Barnett. “This project will enhance the performance of the highly successful stormwater treatment areas we  already have in operation.”

The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:

 – 6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are constructed, carefully managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.

 – 110,000 acre-feet of water storage capabilities in flow equalization basins, or reservoirs that work with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to regulate flows and optimize treatment efficiency.

 – Other components of the plan include engineering projects in existing treatment areas and the modification of conveyance features necessary to move the water through the South Florida Water Management District’s massive flood control and water delivery features.

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