Last month, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) voted to forgo purchasing U.S. Sugar-owned land to build a vital reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). This decision is a setback to Everglades restoration and communities enduring damaging discharges of polluted Lake Okeechobee water along Florida’s east and west coasts.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was signed into law in 2000 with bi-partisan support and specifically called for a reservoir to store water in the EAA. The EAA Reservoir has been a part of CERP since Day One — a project so crucial to Everglades restoration that it was put on a fast-track list by Gov. Jeb Bush a decade ago.
Everglades restoration is a good investment in Florida’s future. Every dollar spent on restoration generates a four-dollar return. Additionally, a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the EAA would qualify for a 50/50 cost share with Washington.
Water storage is the heart of Everglades restoration and vital to Florida’s water supply. Nearly 8 million Floridians and millions of tourists who visit every year depend on the Everglades for their drinking water. Without the EAA reservoir, we will continue to waste billions of gallons of freshwater; while, paradoxically, the Everglades and Florida Bay are starved for water. We have a responsibility and an opportunity to reduce pollution and toxic algae in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries to protect local businesses, tourism and home values.
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There is nothing more conservative than conservation and protecting our resources. A reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is essential to protecting the Everglades for generations to come.
Communities are suffering right now. The Everglades is threatened right now.
The public has been waiting for more than 15 years for tangible restoration of the Everglades and is demanding action right now. The state needs to identify and acquire land in the EAA to build this critical reservoir as promised in CERP.
The Everglades Foundation looks forward to working with Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature, and SFWMD to finish what we’ve started and find a viable alternative site for this critical Everglades restoration project.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation, Palmetto Bay