Ironically, even as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie are being crushed once again by discharges, we are closer than we’ve ever been to a real solution, thanks largely to Senate President Joe Negron’s championing SB10 this year. But the devil is in the details, and as gratifying as progress is, we’re watching it slip away through a flawed planning process.
The South Florida Water Management District doesn’t appear to be acting in good faith to follow the letter and spirit of SB10 or to stop the discharges. The plans they’re showing the public are designed to fail, at least for the purpose that Joe intended.
Independent expert analysis and the district’s own presentation reveal that their plans are either impossible to follow, won’t do much to stop the discharges, or both:
The reservoir dimensions they propose would need towering sides, berms more than 50 feet high, and depths requiring space-age pumps that may not exist. The design has to be cost-effective for federal approval, and engineers say any configuration much deeper than 12-½ feet can’t be built or run efficiently enough to qualify.
The plan doesn’t include enough land to clean the water efficiently–approximately 13,000 acres of STAs for 240,000 acre-feet of lake water–which will restrict the reservoir’s ability to maximize discharge reduction. This is a bottleneck in the current proposal that undermines the reservoir’s entire purpose.
The district refuses to present modeling for wet years–the only time it matters. Instead they graphed an average year, when the project might send 300,000 acre-feet per year south. We don’t have a problem in an average year; designing this project for an average year is designing it to fail. We need to see projections for at least 1.3 million acre-feet–a relatively modest wet-year target.
The district’s approach begins with limitations that prevent the design from working: making treatment acreage a secondary consideration instead of starting with the minimum needed (the graph starts with zero treatment and still never reaches the reduction target); and assuming a fixed 16,000-acre footprint despite having as much as 15,000 acres of available public land in addition to the 14,000-acre A2 parcel. SFWMD has public land and the authority to use it–there’s no excuse not to model enough treatment.
We can’t allow a state agency to sabotage the planning process and undermine our last chance to protect our water, our economies, our property values, and our health. Thankful as we are for what Joe has done this year, we need his leadership now more than ever to hold SFWMD accountable to deliver the solution we all fought for. His legacy hangs in the balance.