Accelerating construction on the EAA Reservoir Project by a full year and
a half is a giant leap forward.”
SFWMD Board Chair Chauncey Goss
After more than 20 years of battling the sugar industry, construction on the heart of Everglades restoration, the EAA Reservoir, finally commences.
MOMENTS ALONG THE WAY FOR MORE STORAGE SOUTH OF LAKE O
2008 US Sugar approached the state with an offer to sell all their land in the EAA, “Everything including the half-eaten pastrami sandwich in the lunchroom,” declared Robert H. Buker, Jr., president and CEO of US Sugar.
The deal was an elegant solution that would allow the state enough land to build the EAA Reservoir and marsh system, as envisioned in CERP. This was the missing link, the land required to reconnect Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and restore the flow of clean freshwater all the way down Florida Bay, the headwaters of the Florida Keys.
2010 Agreements were made. Contracts were signed. Press conferences were held. Photos were taken. Then the financial markets collapsed, and everything slowed down.
Despite their own description of how vital this land is to halt the toxic discharges and restore the flow of water to the Everglades, US Sugar eventually reneged on their half of the deal.
2011 The financial markets had improved. The state had a new Governor but US Sugar was no longer a willing seller.
2014 Amendment 1 was overwhelming approved by the voters, which would provide the funding for the US Sugar land purchase.
2015 US Sugar and Florida Crystals lobbied the Legislature to not go through with the land purchase.
2017 With the commitment and leadership from then-Senate President Joe Negron, Senate Bill 10 was signed into law in 2017, authorizing and providing the state’s portion of the funding for the EAA Reservoir Project.
2018 Congress provided the required federal authorization and approved a plan developed by the South Florida Water Management District.
2019 Two days after he was sworn in as Florida’s 46th Governor, Ron DeSantis made expediting the completion of the EAA Storage Reservoir a key priority with one of his first Executive Orders, Executive Order 19-12. The order instructs SFWMD to start the next phase of design work on the project.
2020 SFWMD Governing Board Fully Funds EAA Reservoir Project’s STA.
2020 Blasting Begins for Canals at EAA Reservoir Project Site.
2021 SFWMD signs agreement with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin federal construction on the reservoir component.
THE RAVAGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The world’s best scientists, hydrologists, and wetlands experts specific to the Everglades are housed at the Everglades Foundation, which regularly uses the recommendations and feedback from the National Academies of Science biennial reports.
An excerpt from a recent report to Congress:
“In the face of climate change, Everglades restoration will increase the resilience of the ecosystem and the water management system and decrease their vulnerability. From the perspective of water resources management, the CERP offers substantial benefits. In particular, increasing surface-water flows through water conservation areas and into Everglades National Park may help mitigate the sea-level-rise-induced salinization of the aquifers that provide water supply for Dade, Broward, and adjoining counties.”
Climate change effects in South Florida can be subdivided into four impacts: sea level rise; increases in temperature and evapotranspiration; changes in precipitation, flooding, and drought; and tropical storms, hurricanes, and extreme events.
Accelerated sea level rise rates coupled with decreased freshwater flow from the north have left the coastal regions of the Everglades vulnerable to saltwater intrusion.
This not only has a detrimental effect on the freshwater aquifer that supplies South Florida with its drinking water but also on the marshes and their ability to store carbon in peat soil. What the experts are seeing is evidence of rapid soil breakdown and elevation loss with exposure to saltwater, which has implications on “land loss” around the coastal Everglades and increased coastal vulnerability to storm surge and hurricanes.