Future Needs


Many projects to help with Lee County's water quality and water quantity issues already are under way, and many more soon will begin. Among the approaches are: buying land for water storage, restoring natural water flows, in-lake dredging of nutrient-laden sediments, and creating reservoirs and filter marshes for water storage and treatment.

Here's a summary of the key initiatives the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and other community stakeholders currently are supporting:

  • Caloosahatchee Watershed Working Group

  • Established in February 2009 by Tammy Hall, Vice Chair of the Lee County Board of County Commissioners and Chair of the Tourist Development Council, the Caloosahatchee Watershed Working Group (CWWG) serves as a forum to prioritize diverse stakeholders' interests and build consensus around various projects, programs and initiatives related to the Caloosahatchee Watershed. The Group also provides opportunities to discuss and develop legislative priorities.

    Hall formed the organization in response to the recent release of the Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan by the South Florida Water Management District, which has placed a renewed emphasis on implementation and funding of the Plan. On the heels of this, the U.S. Sugar land acquisition/River of Grass project, establishment of total maximum daily loads (TDMLs), and other emerging initiatives pose opportunities as well as the potential for competing priorities.

    Click here to read more about the CWWG's work.

  • Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Act.
    • In the 2007 Legislative Session, SB 392, or the "Northern Everglades and Estuary Protection Act" (NEEPA) passed, providing approximately of $200 million for Everglades restoration and projects in the Caloosahatchee/St. Lucie/Lake Okeechobee watersheds and basins. Click here for more news on the Act's passage.
    • The legislation also provided for Estuary protection plans on both coasts, monitoring and research programs for the coastal estuaries, projects to increase water storage opportunities on lands to alleviate harmful discharges, and annual reporting to the Florida Legislature on the progress of the legislation.
    • Click here to read the NEEPA legislation.

  • Support South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Initiatives.
    • Forward Pumping
      • Permits have been issued for temporary forward pumps; and during this 2007 drought year, they have provided some relief. Due to the severity of the drought, permanent forward pumps become a more critical project to expedite.
      • The current temporary forward pumps have increased the available water storage supply of Lake Okeechobee for agricultural irrigation and East Coast water supply needs by approximately 1.2 million acre-feet.
      • These forward pumps, both temporary and permanent, facilitate lower Lake levels and, thus, provide greater flexibility for water releases. This could either reduce or eliminate the need for excessive releases.

    • Dredging Portions of Lake Okeechobee
      • The sediment-rich, muck bottom of Lake Okeechobee was churned up heavily during the two most recent hurricane seasons. If the muck is not removed from the Lake, the potential exists for this to happen again.
      • Dredging areas where this sediment is particularly heavy will improve the water quality in the Lake as well as any water that is passed through the Lake to the Caloosahatchee River.
      • The SFWMD continues to investigate large scale dredging opportunities in Lake Okeechobee and has implemented smaller scale dredging projects in certain areas while the Lake has been at a low level due to drought.

  • Support Consideration of the Federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Bill in Washington, D.C., in 2007.
    • WRDA contains authorization for funding for the Modified Water Delivery project as well as other major projects that are part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) program.
    • The Modified Water Delivery project allows for the flow of Lake Okeechobee water to the south and, thus, takes pressure off the releases to the east (St. Lucie Canal) and the west (Caloosahatchee River) during the wet season.
    • The C-43 Reservoir, a project in the CERP, is part of the SFWMD initiative known as "Acceler8" to expedite projects of the CERP.
    • The Reservoir will capture and store water releases to the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee, reducing the number and volume of harmful discharges to coastal estuaries during the periods of heavy rain, while providing much needed releases during dry periods.
    • Water quality monitoring was not originally part of the test cells for this project, but Lee County has lobbied successfully for its addition. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the SFWMD have committed to address water quality issues in Phase II of the C-43 Reservoir CERP project. That Phase II effort begins in Fall 2007.
    • Construction has begun on the C-43 test cells and a water quality monitoring program is included as part of the factors that will be evaluated in determining the final design for the reservoir.

  • Continue to Seek the Addition of a Water Quality Component to the C-43 West Storage Reservoir Project.

  • Support the completion of the Southwest Florida Feasibility Study (SWFFS).
    • This study will define the current problems in our area and identify projects that would help alleviate negative environmental impacts of Lake Okeechobee water releases.
    • Formerly scheduled for completion in 2010, the study now will be finished in 2008, thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of Lee County.

  • Support a Revised Water Supply and Environment (WSE) Schedule.
    • The Water Supply & Environment (WSE) schedule dictates how water is released from Lake Okeechobee.
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently is in the process of revising the WSE schedule, which is slated to take effect in Fall 2007. Click here for details on upcoming public hearings to present the proposed revised schedule and solicit public comment on it.
    • One of the goals of the new schedule is to reduce wet season water releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries so that their health is no longer compromised.
    • Lee County is seeking to lower the minimum water level of Lake Okeechobee as part of the schedule revision. The current discussion is to have a minimum level around 12.5 feet.
    • It is anticipated that this new schedule will remain in effect until Herbert Hoover Dike (surrounding Lake Okeechobee) repairs are made and other important CERP projects are constructed by 2010.

  • Support Full Federal Funding for the Everglades Restoration Program.
    • The FY 2008 budget proposes a total of $187.62 million for Everglades restoration.
    • However, $248.46 million is needed to keep the SFWMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers focused on the water resource needs of our region. This includes an additional requirement of $17.5 million to not impede the progress of the Kissimmee River project.

  • Click here to learn details of the progress the VCB and other stakeholders have made so far.

Accomplishments

We pledge to continue our work on these and other initiatives until our water quality issues are resolved. Read about just a few of the efforts supported by the VCB to improve our area’s water quality.

See What's Been Done

Related Links

Lee County:
http://www.lee-county.com

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
http://www.floridafisheries.com

More Links

Glossary

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers [USACOE]:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C., creates policy and plans the future direction of all the Corps organizations, or districts, that are defined by watershed boundaries. The Corp oversees project offices throughout the world.

C-43:
An engineering designation for the altered Caloosahatchee River.

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