We’re running out of time. SFWMD is promoting a reservoir plan it knows won’t work, and only Rick Scott can order the district to produce a realistic design before next week’s deadline. This is the letter we’re sending to the governor:
Dear Governor Scott,
Your administration is taking credit for the EAA reservoir–the keystone project in the solution to Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, and to the decline of Florida Bay and the Everglades. But the South Florida Water Management District, whose governing board you appoint, is proposing a reservoir that they know can’t be built and can’t work. If you want credit for this project, you need to earn it by demanding a viable plan.
That means giving this project a big enough footprint to stay true to the intentions of SB10, by storing and treating enough water with enough efficiency to cut the discharges and send clean water south. Experts know that SFWMD’s plan doesn’t include enough land to do that.
Without enough land to clean the reservoir’s outflow quickly, treatment becomes a bottleneck that limits the amount of water the system can take in an emergency. It doesn’t work when Florida needs it most.
The estimation of acreage needed for stormwater treatment areas (STAs) to clean a given amount of water is common knowledge in the engineering community: for Lake Okeechobee’s level of pollution, the ratio is approximately one acre for every 20 acre-feet of water (6.5 million gallons). SFWMD engineers applied these principles to the STAs now cleaning agricultural runoff in South Florida. Experts agree that the EAA reservoir will need roughly 13,000 acres of STAs to treat 240,000 acre-feet–far more than the current plan includes, and more than double the 6,000 acre figure cited last night by the district.
Maps show enough public land available to expand the EAA reservoir project’s footprint without buying more from private landowners–some of whom have reportedly offered to sell. And the law you passed explicitly allows the state to end leases on public land for this project. So SFWMD has the available resources to produce a workable plan–there is no excuse for proposing an impossible design.
But that is exactly what state employees are doing today. Not only does the plan fail to include enough land to clean water efficiently, it fails to include a buildable reservoir. One proposal calls for a 10,000-acre reservoir holding up to 240,000 acre-feet of water…which would make it 24-feet-deep. With 60-foot-tall berms. And pumps requiring a powerplant that practically doesn’t exist today. The other proposal at 16-feet-deep isn’t any more realistic.
This plan is science fiction, and SFWMD knows that.
By using your authority to demand that state agencies get this project right, you can build a legacy that includes protecting Florida’s $20+ billion fishing and boating industries and the 200,000+ jobs that depend on them, along with their share of our $89 billion tourism industry and another 1.1 million jobs. Your actions will also defend Miami’s water supply and contain a major public health threat from toxic algae. The district’s plans jeopardize all of this.
You have a choice this week to speak out and take ownership of a historic initiative to fix Florida’s broken plumbing. Or to remain silent and be branded a phony opportunist until voters forget you. Please choose to be remembered.
If SFWMD’s plan doesn’t include enough land for a buildable reservoir or to efficiently clean its water, it can sabotage the entire effort behind this legislation. We’re deeply grateful for anything you can do to help call attention to this critical issue in the fight to end the discharges and restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay.