DEP’s Latest Permit Will Increase Protection Of The St. Lucie Estuary

Sept. 11, 2014

~Permit authorizes construction to start on massive water storage project~

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a permit today for a project designed to help protect the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon from the freshwater flows inundating the region’s waterways. Issued to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the permit authorizes construction of a 3,400-acre above-ground reservoir that will be capable of storing up to 16 billion gallons of water. This increased storage, when coupled with new stormwater treatment options in the region, will help ensure the waters reaching the St. Lucie River and Estuary are cleaner and flowing at a manageable rate. The full project — called the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (C-44 RSTA) — is a major milestone for Indian River Lagoon restoration.

“This permit is an important step toward getting the water right in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Estuary,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Governor Scott, the Florida Legislature and the communities of this region have dedicated time and resources to ensuring C-44 is operational and serving area residents, and DEP is proud to be a partner in expediting this project.”

The C-44 RSTA is part of the Indian River Lagoon – South Restoration (IRL South) Project, which is one component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, commonly called CERP. The amount of storage created with the reservoir is equivalent to approximately 25,300 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The overall function of the C-44 RSTA is to capture and store runoff from the C-44 Basin within the reservoir and return it to the C-44 Canal following discharge from the Stormwater Treatment Area. The components of the C-44 RSTA are designed to optimize flows and reduce nutrient loading to the St. Lucie Estuary, a high priority of communities throughout Martin and St. Lucie counties. The state has committed $20.5 million for the C-44 Project for the 2014-15 fiscal year and another $40 million for 2015-16 fiscal year.

“The C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area is a complex, multi-year project but it is critical to the residents of Martin and St. Lucie counties,” said Senator Joe Negron. “Our region has committed more than $50 million in local resources to this and other CERP projects, because we understand the health of our estuary depends on our ability to store and treat the stormwater inundating our river. We’re thankful this project continues to move forward.”

Last month, the USACE substantially completed construction of the western intake canal, eastern C-133/133A canal, Citrus Boulevard bridge and culvert and all associated access roads. Reservoir construction is scheduled to take place from April 2015 through November 2018. The South Florida Water Management District is pursuing construction of the remaining project components including the reservoir pump station, Stormwater Treatment Area and system discharge spillway, which are scheduled to begin in late 2014, with a completion date of 2017.

“Our communities and our local economies depend on a healthy St. Lucie River and Estuary for their livelihoods,” said Representative Gayle Harrell. “The storage and treatment options provided through this project will help us ensure the health of our local waterways is sustained.”

“The C-44 is just one of many projects being undertaken by regional, state and federal partners to manage the yearly influx of freshwater flows impacting our region,” said Representative MaryLynn Magar. “I’m pleased to see the additional storage that’s being created throughout south Florida as a result of these partnerships.”

The IRL South Project is a landmark restoration component representing unprecedented collaboration among federal, state and local partners. Through coordination among DEP, the South Florida Water Management District, USACE and Martin County, substantial restoration progress is being made. Overall IRL South Project environmental benefits include:

  • Four large reservoirs and stormwater treatment areas

             – 130,000 acre-feet of new storage capacity
– 35,000 acre-feet of treatment capability
– More than 200 metric tons of nutrient load reductions per year

  • Natural storage and treatment areas

             – 90,000 acres of wetlands
– Storage capacity of 30,000 acre-feet of water
– More than 400 metric tons of nutrient load reductions per year

  • Muck remediation for artificial habitat

             – Removal of approximately 7.9 million cubic yards of muck
– Will restore 1,300 acres for oysters and aquatic vegetation to re-colonize

For more information about the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, click here.

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