White House okays Lake O reservoir, Congress approval still needed

Lee Herald Favicon 16Governor Rick Scott announced that the White House Office of Management and Budget has approved the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage project on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

The 10,500-acre reservoir and 6,500-acre storm water treatment area will be located south of Lake Okeechobee and would be used to hold excess water in the rainy season. It would be designed to hold at least 240,000 acre-feet of water with a storage depth of 22.6 feet.

The reservoir would greatly reduce the need for freshwater releases down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers to keep the lake at a manageable level. Recently, the volume of those releases has disrupted the balance of water in estuaries downstream and has caused the rapid growth of blue-green algae blooms in Southwest Florida. The estimated cost of the entire water management project would be around $3.33 billion.

While touring the Caloosahatchee in Fort Myers on Monday, Scott remarked on the green slick of algae covering the surface of the water.

“You can see it in the water,” said Scott. “It’s frustrating right now and I’m sure if you are a boater, fisherman, or someone who wants to enjoy the water, it’s frustrating to see this in the water.”

In his tweet, Scott said that the project had been approved and will be transmitted to congress, but the reservoir will still require approval from legislators. Long an issue with bipartisan support among Florida’s Congressional delegation, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have been working to build support for the project in the Senate.

“This project, spearheaded by State Senator [Joe] Negron and coupled with existing efforts, will greatly reduce the harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges once again threatening our coastal communities,” said Rubio in a statement release Tuesday. “I am encouraged by the administration’s continued engagement on Florida’s water issues, and I look forward to working with the president to fund the expedited construction of these critical Everglades restoration projects.”

Nelson also tweeted his satisfaction with the news Tuesday afternoon, calling it “good news” in the fight against algae blooms.

“Now with Corps’ okay, we can work to get this project approved by Congress this year,” Nelson tweeted.

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