DEP Statement Regarding Independent Review of Everglades Restoration Efforts
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) appreciate the efforts of the National Research Council’s Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress in producing the fifth biennial review of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The report underscores the state’s commitment to science-based research and monitoring and its importance in decision making. It also recognizes expanded actions by the state to improve Everglades water quality through the Restoration Strategies plan championed by Governor Rick Scott. Thanks to the efforts of DEP and SFWMD staff, construction is now underway on additional storage and treatment projects, and science plan studies are moving forward. With a strong financial commitment from the state and the recent passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, we look forward to working with our federal partners on initiating – and completing – more restoration projects that will benefit Florida’s Everglades.
Permit Issued to Construct L-8 Flow Equalization Basin
The Department issued a permit to the South Florida Water Management District to construct the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin that is designed to store 15 billion gallons of water that can be treated and moved south into the Everglades. This basin is one of the components that was part of the Everglades Restoration Project.
When the construction of this basin is complete, storm water, which is released at peak times into the ocean will be safely held in a reservoir and later cleaned and redirected to the Everglades. Additionally, this will allow water managers to store storm water that may have been diverted to the ocean or other water conservation areas and direct flows for treatment prior to entering the everglades.
Formerly, the location of the L-8 basin was a rock mine site located in central Palm Beach County. As a result of the geology, the site allows for deep, below ground storage, reduces seepage and water loss and minimizes levee safety concerns. The construction of embankment protection is currently underway, and the permit authorizes construction of a permanent discharge pump station and inflow feature. The construction of the pump station and inflow spillway is scheduled through April 2015.
Governor Scott Signs $880 Million Everglades Restoration Plan into Law
Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 7065, which will provide annually $32 million towards the Everglades Restoration Plan. This funding is a huge step in the $880 million long term everglades restoration plan that has been put in place. The signing into law ensures that this project will continue its efforts to protect and ensure that we are doing what it takes to restore and properly manage a world- renowned ecosystem that is providing benefits to our state and nation.
Permit for Final Pump Station for Picayune Strand Restoration Project Issued
The Department issued to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a permit for the third and final pump station for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. The Project is located between Alligator Alley and Tamiami Trail in southwestern Collier County and is being implemented to restore 55,000 acres of wetlands, allowing water to flow slowly south in the western Everglades.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project is part of the long term Everglades Restoration Plan. In addition to the pump stations, the project will also plug 48 miles of canals and remove more than 250 miles of road to allow for water from pump stations to slowly flow south to restore wetlands. Wetland restoration is essential to create habitats for species and benefit downstream estuaries, as well as surround parks and wildlife reserves. Some places this will benefit include Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Collier Seminole State Park and the Belle Meade Conservation and Recreation Lands.
C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project Completed as Part of Everglades Restoration
The Secretary joined leaders of the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the National Everglades Parks staff and other local and state partners in celebrating the completion of the C-111 spreader canal western project. This project was an expedited effort that cost $51 million and will restore freshwater flows to the Florida Bay and restore upstream water levels into eastern Everglades National Park
The project includes an above ground detention area and pump stations to better manage ground and surface water flows in the Everglades National Park. Additionally, it will aid restoration of freshwater wetlands, tidal wetlands, near shore habitats, as well as flood maintenance and recreation opportunities.
Final Permits and Consent Orders Issued for Everglades Restoration Projects
The Department issued final permits and consent orders to the South Florida Water Management District, following a 21 day petition period after the district’s Governing Board approved projects that were presented by the South Florida Water Management Staff. The permits and consent orders authorized them to operating and maintain existing stormwater treatment areas and required construction and operation of treatment areas that were part of the Everglades Restoration Plan.
The Department’s permits and consent orders include milestones for project completion, as well as enforcement mechanisms to ensure the milestones are met. The plan calls for 6,500 acres of state-of-the-art stormwater treatment areas and close to 110,000 acre-feet of associated water storage. Core project components will be designed, constructed and operational within six years.
Everglades Water Quality Improvements
The state of Florida continues to recognize the importance of the Everglades to the state’s environment, economy and way of life, and remains committed to working with our local, state and federal partners to restore this one-of-a-kind ecosystem.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received notification on June 13, 2012, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the permits and associated projects the Department submitted on June 6 satisfy all of the EPA’s previous objections and are sufficient to achieve the stringent water quality requirements for the Everglades. This action paves the way for the Department to move forward with the state’s permitting process to implement a historic plan — including an achievable strategy and enforceable schedule for constructing an array of treatment projects and associated water storage — to improve water quality in the Everglades.
Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, DEP and South Florida Water Management District scientists worked to develop a scientifically-sound and technically-feasible course of action that resolves a long-standing and long-recognized environmental challenge. Months of collaborative dialogue with the EPA has resulted in a rigorous and enforceable path for fully achieving stringent water quality requirements and delivering measureable and permanent results for the Everglades.
More information about the permit submittal and Florida’s plan to improve water quality in the Everglades can be found below.
- Letter from EPA Region IV Administration Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming to DEP Secretary Vinyard.
- Letter from DEP Secretary Vinyard to EPA Region IV Administration Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming.
- Questions and Answers: Everglades Water Quality Improvements. [UPDATED 4/1/2013]
- Presentation to the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, June 4, 2012.
- Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit with accompanying consent order.
- Supporting Information.
With local, state and federal partners, DEP is working on the largest environmental restoration project in the world – restoring America’s Everglades. We are returning a more natural water flow to the 2.4 million-acre marsh, reviving habitat for more than 60 threatened and endangered species, establishing a reliable supply of water for millions of Floridians and providing flood control to the south Florida area. Currently, Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and South Florida Water Management District are working with federal partners on a strategy for improving water quality and sending cleaner water south to the vast ecosystem, while protecting jobs and the state’s economy. Our federal partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Governor Rick Scott statement regarding Everglades Restoration, Oct. 6, 2011
On Oct. 6, 2011, Governor Rick Scott, along with DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard and South Florida Water Management District Director Melissa Meeker, met with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Secretary of Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to reaffirm Florida’s long-standing commitment to restoring America’s Everglades. During the meeting of state and federal principals, Governor Scott outlined a strategy for improving water quality in the Everglades, while at the same time protecting jobs and the state’s economy.The following is a statement from Governor Scott after the Everglades restoration principals meeting.
“Florida remains steadfast in its commitment to restoring America’s Everglades. The state has invested significant resources to improving water quality and supply for this unique ecosystem and South Florida’s 7.7 million residents. Yet we recognize there is more work to do. I traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask our federal and state Everglades restoration partners to agree on a strategy that puts the ecosystem first and prevents costly, ongoing litigation from derailing our mutual progress toward restoration.
“A strong Florida partnership will help usher in the next generation of projects that will improve water quality in South Florida, while still protecting jobs and the state’s economy. The proposed plan directs the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to build on the state’s $1.8 billion investment in water quality improvements and move forward with additional remedies that will achieve the stringent water quality requirements established for the Everglades.
“This plan puts to use strategic lands already in public ownership so that these projects can be authorized and built promptly, in the right locations and at a reasonable cost to the taxpayers. A healthy Everglades is part of a healthy economy. Yet it is also one of America’s treasures. It fully deserves our best efforts to resolve differences, re-focus on our goals and deliver results. This strategy can make that happen.”
- DEP Press Release, Oct. 6, 2011: Florida Meets with Federal Leaders, Reaffirms Florida’s Commitment To Everglades Restoration
- Letter to Governor Scott from Federal Partners
Continuing our commitment: Florida’s Ranchlands Helping to Preserve Landscapes, Protect and Improve Waters, Nov. 29, 2011
New land management strategy achieves environmental benefits, keeps lands on tax rolls, sustains jobs.
On Nov. 29, 2011, leaders of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) marked the expansion of an innovative, cost-saving land management strategy with the signing of partnership agreements with eight Florida ranchers. Water managers are collaborating with landowners to achieve water storage, water quality and habitat improvement benefits north of Lake Okeechobee but at less cost than traditional government land acquisition programs.
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. and SFWMD Executive Director Melissa Meeker met with landowners at the Dixie Cattle Ranch in Okeechobee County to finalize the new agreements that will store 4,800 acre-feet of water on private lands and improve water quality in Lake Okeechobee, the coastal estuaries and the Everglades.
The ranchlands — totaling 9,500 acres across three counties — have become part of the SFWMD’s Dispersed Water Management Program to store water on public, private and tribal lands. The program is an important new tool that is helping to improve water quality, protect water resources and conserve Florida’s habitats. At the same time, using working ranchlands to achieve environmental benefits also helps sustain jobs, keeps land on local tax rolls and avoids burdening taxpayers with new debt to buy title to the land. The effort parallels the water resource goals of Florida’s successful land acquisition programs without the higher cost of buying and managing land.
“Getting the water right is central to every aspect of Florida life and its future,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Collaborating with property owners to store excess water helps advance the conservation and natural resource protection goals of highly successful environmental protection programs, without the high cost of land acquisition, the burden of ongoing debt payments and leaving landowners to do what they do best — manage the land and support our economy.”
“Shallow water storage coupled with large regional reservoirs provides additional tools for better managing water in the regional system and protecting South Florida’s water resources,” said SFWMD Executive Director Melissa Meeker. ”The Dispersed Water Management Program is an innovative way of involving private partners in environmental solutions and achieving our goals for water storage, water quality and habitat enhancement in a fiscally responsible way for taxpayers.”
More on Dispersed Water Management Program: Florida’s Ranchlands Helping to Preserve Landscapes, Protect and Improve Waters
In the news
It’s About Florida: Everglades, Dec. 9, 2011. Listen to Secretary Vinyard and South Florida Water Management Executive Director Melissa Meeker talk about water storage, water quality and habitat improvement benefits north of Lake Okeechobee due to partnership agreements with eight Florida ranchers.