Reaching the Finish Line, C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/Reservoir, SLR/IRL

View of new intake canal and lands to be used for C-44 STA/Reservoir. C-44 canal in foreground. (Photo 2014, JTL)
View of new intake canal far right and lands to be used for C-44 STA/Reservoir. C-44 canal in foreground. Near Indiantown.(Photo 2014, JTL)
Intake canal for C-44 STR/R.(JTL)
Intake canal for C-44 STA/R.(JTL)

Today’s blog is a review of something we have been talking about for a long time now. Something that is in the news once again. The C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area and Reservoir, a component of the Indian River Lagoon South, CERP project.

Today we will break down this project into chucks so we can understand what is happening, and what has already happened, and clarify some terminology.

The term “C-44” can be confusing as C-44 is a canal but is applied to others things and used as a “nickname” for an entire, multi-layered project.  First, the C-44 is a canal that was built from 1915 to 1923 by the flood control district of the era and later by the Army Corp of Engineers. This canal has dual purposes. It allows water from the C-44 basin to run into and be released into the North Fork of the St Lucie River, and it allows overflow water from Lake Okeechobee to be released into the North Fork of the St Lucie River. “All this water” plasters the bottom of the estuary with silt and pollution from surrounding lands, in this case mostly from agricultural runoff.

There are two structures along the C-44 canal that release the water: structure 308 (S-308) at Lake Okeechobee, “Port Mayaca,” and S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam in Tropical Farms.

Believe it or not, the canal can “run in both directions, dumping water to the lake or to the St Lucie. The ACOE is in charge and works together with the South Florida Water Management District to manage this canal that is part of Florida’s history for “water supply” of agriculture and “flood control” for agricultural lands that later became populated by people other than just farmers…..

SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.

So the “C-44 STA/R.,” as I will call it, has been in the works conceptually since the Comprehensive  Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP that was agreed on by stakeholders in 2000. There are/were 68 project components of CERP, none are 100% complete. C-44 STA/R is part of  “Indian River Lagoon South” a part of CERP that got a jump-start in 2007 and moved up on the list of 68.

Why haven’t all these projects been approved and funded? In the insane and fickle world of federal and state politics there is never a guarantee. So the ACOE and SFWMD live in a state of flux as do we, the public. This is why we must fight so hard, elect the right legislators, and “never give up.”

An overview of C-44 STA/R can be read about here:(http://www.martin.fl.us/web_docs/eng/web/EcoSystem_Restoration_and_Management/Water_Quality/Indian_River_Lagoon_South_Fact_Sheet.pdf)
Martin County and the public have done a great job supporting the SFWMD and advocating for the C-44 STA/R. As reporter, Tyler Treadway, stated in his recent Stuart News, article: “The C-44 project began in 2007 when the South Florida Water Management District spent $173 million and Martin County kicked in $27 million through a special 1-cent sales tax to buy and clear 12,000 acres for the facility.”

In 2011, after a couple of false starts the ACOE held a groundbreaking for the C-44 STA/R project. This was a happy day. I was mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point at the time and participated in the groundbreaking event. This was Contract 1 and there are many components to this contract, but the most visible one is the building of the INTAKE CANAL from C-44 canal into the interior of the lands where the STA and Reservoir are to be built.

You can read about this here: (http://www.army.mil/article/61750/Corps_Awards_Contract_for_Construction_of_C_44_Reservoir_and_Stormwater_Treatment_Area/)
(https://www.pandj.com/project/c44-reservoirsta-project-contract-1-intake-canalproject-acess-road-canals/)

As you can see from this breakdown the project below, C-44 STA/R has multiple “contracts.” This is why we keep hearing about it “again and again.”  The chart below is very helpful in understanding a timeline of the contracts. Each is funded separately. For fun, I have also included some pictures of the 2011 groundbreaking event. You can see how many people involved are not “here” anymore….

Breakdown of Contracts, C-44 STA/R.
Breakdown of Contracts, C-44 STA/R.
Sign for groundbreaking, 2011.
Sign for groundbreaking, 2011.
Conceptual rendering 2011 event.
Conceptual rendering 2011 event.
ACOE Col. Pantero and Lt Col. Kinade, 2011. (Photo JTL)
Unidentified gentleman, Lt Col. Kinard, and Col Pantano. 2011. (Photo JTL)
Agency leadership, groundbreaking 2011.
Agency leadership, groundbreaking 2011.
Martin County Commissioners, 2011.
Martin County Commissioners, 2011.
Local and regional leadership, 2011.
Agency, regional leadership, and local leadership pose for the camera, groundbreaking, 2011.

OK so now fast forward to 2013. A year that rings like torture for those of us who lived here in Martin and St Lucie Counties during that time. It was the “Lost Summer” when the waters of Lake Okeechobee and C-44, C-23, C-24, and C-25 just about killed us and did kill our economy and the St Lucie River Southern Indian River Lagoon. It was during this time that Governor Rick Scott and the state legislature put 40 million towards “the C-44” to speed up construction of the STAs. This was wonderful cooperation between state and federal agencies. Entities that sometimes are at odds. This cooperation shined light on the agreed importance of improving water quality in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon system, a yes…it WAS an election year! 🙂

You can read about Gov. Scott here: (http://www.flgov.com/gov-scott-announces-40-million-commitment-to-speed-up-critical-water-treatment-project-2/)

Sewall's Point confluence of SLR/IRL 2013. (JTL)
Sewall’s Point confluence of SLR/IRL 2013. (JTL)
Toxic alge SLR, photo Mary Ratabaugh 2013.
Toxic algae SLR, photo Mary Ratabaugh 2013.
Plume along Jupiter Island, Lost Summer 2013. (JTL)
Plume along Jupiter Island, Lost Summer 2013. (JTL)
The people rally for the river! (Stuart Beach) 2000 people docuemtned. (Sevin Bullwinkle)
The people rally for the river, Stuart Beach. Over 2000 people docuemtned. (Sevin Bullwinkle, 2013.)

There were also other local politicians that were very vocal and helpful during this 2013 time. Florida Senator Joe Negron; Congressional Representative Patrick Murphy, there were others too like Senator Bill Nelson; Senator Marco Rubio even visited- and others….the public though was what really shined as they rallied and advocated on behalf of the river.

Now we are hearing about C-44 STA/R in the news AGAIN. So what are they talking about now? They are talking about the next part of the “contract sequence,” or phase…this time to build the reservoir as seen in light blue below. This is where the water will  be held before going to he STA to be cleaned before again being released into the canal and then the river….

STA is in light blue on left.
The reservoir is in light blue on left. The canal and storm water treatment area is in blue. The water is pulled out of the C-44 canal as seen in bottom of image.(ACOE)
C-44
Palmar on far bottom right is part of the water quality component of the C-44 STA/R as seen on north side of C-44 canal.(ACOE)
....
….

Read about this next contract sequence that just came out in the news here: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Article/616981/corps-awards-indian-river-lagoon-south-construction-contract.aspx)

So what is all of this going to look like when it is done, and when might it be done? This chart shows the end date as 2020.

YouTube TMBA video/artist’s and engineering’s interpretation of final product:

Link: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsC0BoIPJ4)

Breakdown of Contracts, C-44 STA/R.
End date 2020…(ACOE)

So as you can see, the building and funding of the C-44 STA/Reservoir is not an event but rather a story. “Reaching the finish line” includes many chapters….Considering so many other Everglades Restoration projects are not even close to getting this kind of attention and funding is something we must appreciate and be proud and thankful for.

What we must also understand is this is just the beginning and will not alone fix our water problems. In a bad year maybe 1.5 to 2 million acre feet— (one foot of water on one acre of land) ——-of water goes into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River alone. This amount of water is basically unfathomable. Picture all the water that used to be on the lands of central Florida each wet season before we drained them and straightened the Kissimmee River….not to mention “Disney”….

And since the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee blocks the flow of water south to the Everglades this water is redirected to the St Lucie River/IRL and to the Calooshahatchee. The C-44 STA/R is meant to clean water from the C-44 basin alone. A reservoir of 50,600 acre feet will help the C-44 basin problems but not the releases from Lake Okeechobee. Only an outlet south of the lake, and a tremendous amount of storage can do that. —-So in essence, our race has just begun…

This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)

__________________________________________________________________

CERP and Everglades Restoration:(http://141.232.10.32/pm/projects/project_list.aspx) (http://www.evergladesrestoration.gov)

ACOE 2014 Completed Work Review: (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Article/486920/corps-completes-first-construction-contract-for-indian-river-lagoon-south-proje.aspx)

DEP C-44 Canal: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

8 thoughts on “Reaching the Finish Line, C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area/Reservoir, SLR/IRL

  1. Around here coquina rock formations adorn most business and home lawns. Even the USA Today newspaper has some very big coquina river formations adorning the front of it. It has beutifull swirling shapes from waves shapeing it when it was SOFT. It has holes in it where palm trees pushed out the SOFT coquina and then died and rotted leaveing holes. But most importantly it is all dark brown from centuries of fresh water and the dark acid from decaying plant material in the fresh water. Our historic IRL was very fresh water and probably had more calcium chloride salt than sodium chloride salt. It was also very productive. One of the first buildings built here in Melbourne was our ice house. The first real business was shipping fish north in barrels. I heard that it was not unusual for a single person to catch more than a thousand pounds of fish a day.Fresh water is not the problem. The problem is a spendaholic government that never lets its citizens vote on how the money is spent.

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