2020 – Biggest Year Yet for the Everglades Restoration and Water Quality by Sean Cooley

As we begin a new year, Everglades restoration is more important than ever, and 2020 is sure to be the biggest year for restoration yet. At the South Florida Water Management District, we are moving full-steam ahead and actively working on advancing key water quality and Everglades restoration projects for the 8.7 million residents in the District’s 16 county region that stretches from Orlando to the Florida Keys.

In his inaugural address in 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis said, “Water is part and parcel of Florida’s DNA. Protecting it is the smart thing to do, it’s also the right thing to do.” This statement resonates with me to this day, and I am proud of all of the accomplishments we have made and will continue to make for Everglades restoration and improved water quality for all Floridians.

We started this year with the largest wetland acquisition in a decade! These wetlands are critical to the health of the Everglades
and now we can guarantee that there will be no oil and gas drilling on 20,000 acres in the heart of the Everglades. Making sure this land is protected in perpetuity means that we are achieving more now for Florida’s environment.

In our backyard, we are excited about the Caloosahatchee Reservoir in Hendry County, which will help balance salinity levels
to protect plants and wildlife and reduce harmful discharges of water to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. The District is also working on an intensive public study that aims to find ways to improve the reservoir’s water quality, and we can expect to see the final report from this study later this year.

Very soon, the District expects to start construction on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project’s water- cleaning  Stormwater Treatment Area (STA). Often referred to as the EAA Reservoir, this project captured headlines in recent
years as one of the most popular and necessary Everglades restoration projects that helps all of South Florida. Once complete, the project will become one of the brightest crown jewels in a system that will help restore the natural water flow to the Everglades and reduce damaging discharges to our estuaries.

The District is also working to complete the C-44 Reservoir and STA project on the East Coast. The St. Lucie Estuary and Indian
River Lagoon will also have a water-cleaning STA to reduce nutrient loads and improve water quality. The project has been planned for decades and this year it will become a reality. And finally, the southern end of the Everglades system is home to
Everglades National Park and then Florida Bay. The southern tip of our state depends on freshwater from the north, and we’re working hard to get more water where it’s needed in the park.

Crews will begin removing miles of the old Tamiami Trail roadbed, researching how to keep water in the park and out of communities, and expediting other projects to increase water being pumped into the park. I am honored to serve as the Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board. Along with my fellow Governing Board members, we will continue to do everything we can to make sure we expedite critical Everglades and water quality projects for the benefit of all Floridians and our treasured natural resources.

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