Plans taking shape for water storage north of lake
by Katrina Elsken, Special to the Clewiston News ·
The plans for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP) are taking shape, as the project team evaluates possible sites for water storage and treatment.
LOWP is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which deals with the entire Everglades system, and includes 68 components.
CERP was authorized by Congress in 2000 as a plan to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.” At a cost of more than $10.5 billion and with a 35-year time-line, CERP is the largest hydrologic restoration project ever undertaken in the United States. The projects involve the area spanning from the Kissimmee River basin north of Lake Okeechobee south to Florida Bay.
LOWP is a planning effort that aims to identify opportunities to improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water entering Lake Okeechobee.
The projects goals include:
• Identifying potential storage and water quality opportunities north of the lake
• Providing for better management of lake water levels
• Reducing high-volume discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries downstream of the lake and,
• The project will improve system-wide operational flexibility.
At the Dec. 14 LOWP meeting, a range of above-ground water storage options were identified, with a static storage capacity of 150,000 acre feet to 350,000 acre feet. A range of aquifer storage and recovery wells (ASR) projects were identified with 60 to 80 ASR wells with a maximum capacity of 335,000 acre-feet per year to 450,000 acre-feet per year. In addition, the project identified a range of 30 to 150 deep injection wells with a maximum capacity of 500,000 acre-feet per year to 2,500,000 acre-feet per year.
The wetland options were ranked using factors such as wading birds, connectivity to other bodies of water, surface water connectivity, restoration potential and public access.
The options under consideration for wetland restoration as part of LOWP have been cut down to five: Lake O west, IP-10, New Kissimmee River, Bootheel Creek and IP-9.
The wetlands projects screened off the list are Paradise Run, Fish Slough and Lake O East.
In an interview after the meeting, Tim Gysan, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP) project manager, explained that Paradise Run is still part of LOWP, but that part of the Paradise Run could be incorporated into the footprint of the reservoir project.
“The majority of Paradise Run footprint is still in the project,” said Mr. Gysan. “It’s incorporated into a new project called the New Kissimmee River project. Only a small part is in the proposed reservoir.”