At 8am on Friday, July 29, 2022, a group of realtors, environmentalists, reporters, and professionals met at SFWMD headquarters in West Palm Beach. The day had finally arrived for our field trip to the EAA Reservoir/Storm Water Treatment Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corp will be building the reservoir scheduled to be complete in 2029, and the SFWMD is under construction with the storm water treatment area or “STA” to be complete in 2023. The project, became part of CEPP, the Central Everglades Planning Project, and was reborn through public outcry due to toxic summers and the grit and leadership of Martin County’s 2017/18 Senate President, Joe Negron (SB10). And thus today, like a phoenix, the EAA Reservoir and STA is rising, and will one day be the first structure built to encompass sending cleansed Lake O water south to the Everglades. Make no mistake, this reservoir is the greatest hope for the health of the Northern Estuaries that for decades have been subjected to damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Well located between the Miami and New River Canals, and neighboring the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the 6500 acre STA’s gigantic water cleaning marsh and the 10,500 acre, 23 feet deep reservoir, will be a game changer. Listen the videos below by SFWMD Executive Director for insights.
What a day! What an experience!It was sobering to make the long drive from headquarters through the Everglades Agricultural Area and historic City of Belle Glade knowing this is where Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ “River of Grass” once flowed. Today Taco Bells replace sawgrass. Over an hour later arriving at the construction trailer along Highway 27, SFWMD engineers Tim Harper, Alexis San-Miguel, Jennifer Leeds, Leslye Waugh and Drew Bartlett were available to educate us. Next we returned to the vehicles dodging the hot sun, weaving our way through the sugar cane fields that will soon be replaced with one of the most extensive environmental restoration projects not just in the country, but in the world! For myself, having been visited in 2019 and 2021, it was inspiring to see and compare the EAA Reservoir/STA today -now really coming out of the ground and taking form with the inflow/outflow canal (across the top) and C-640 (between STA and reservoir). Of course, there are controversies as there always are; this is the essence and history of Everglades Restoration. I am confident, that these water and cultural concerns will be ameliorated in friendly fashion, just as SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator emphasizes. I for one, am thankful for all who got us here, particularly Joe Negron. Through participation, education, and inspiration, we will continue the work to “rebuild and restore” the waters of South Florida.
Group portrait with SFWMD mascot Freddy the Alligator L-R: Max Chesnes, reporter TCPalm; Jennifer Leeds, SFWMD Bureau Chief-Ecosystem Restoration Planning; Anne Schmidt (realtor), Deb Drum, Director PBC En. Res. Dept; Todd Thurlow, (website eyeonlakeo); Eve Samples, Exec. Dir. Friends of the Everglades; HB Warren, (realtor); JTL, SFWMD G.B.; Kathy LaMartina, SFWMD Reg. Rep.; Rob Lord, former President of Martin Health/Clevland Clinic); Crystal Vanderweit, photographer TCPalm; Alexis San-Miguel, Section Leader EAA Res./STA; John Gonzalez, (realtor); Ike Crumpler, (realtor assoc. consultant /Upstairs Communications; Drew Bartlett, Ex. Dir. SFMWD; Gil Smart, Friends of the Everglades; Leslye Waugh, SFWMD Eco. Restoration Admin.; Sean Cooley, SFWMD Communications Dir.; Kym Hurchalla, Friends of the Everglades. -SFWMD official group shot 🙂
- Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Features
- Reservoir aka “A2 Reservoir”: 10,500 acres with 240,000 acre-foot storage at about 23 feet deep
- STA aka “A-2 Stormwater Treatment Area”: 6,500 acres
- Adds 160,000 to CEPP’s 210,000 for a total of 370,000 average annual acre-feet of new water flowing through to the central Everglades ~ ACOE
Blue line = path from SFWMD Headquarters in West Palm Beach to the EAA R/STA and back-My vehicle: JTL, Alexis, Gil, Max, Crystal, Drew, Todd, John, HB, Kym, Eve.-Construction Manager Principal, Tim Harper, shares maps, information and answers questions.-SFWMD Exec. Dir Drew Bartlett explains videos 1&2 -extremely helpful!
VIDEO #1 DREW BARLETT
#VIDEO 2 DREW BARTLETT
-Exec. Dir. Drew Bartlett and JTL arrive on site: smile and wave to Freddy the Alligator! “Freddy the Alligator has come to say hello!” Freddy helps other animals during drought and he and his friends need more and clean water! -Reviewing the site is overwhelming; the reservoir and STA by vehicle cover over eight miles!-Dyno-mite! C-640 Canal divides the STA and the Reservoir. We were treated to a blast during lunchtime. Guest, Eric Eichenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation, and I prepare. We have been waiting for this a long, long time!
-Realtor Anne’s new hat! -John Gonzalez, JTL, HB Warren, Deb Drub, Rob Lord, Eve Samples -Realtors: John Gonzalez, Anne Schmidt, Ike Crumpler, and HB Warren-all worked in Stuart when the horrific harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee destroyed the estuary and home sales in 2013, 2016 and 2018. “We want clean water!” -My brother, Todd Thurlow, author of eyeonlakeo website, stands before the C-640 Canal that divides the STA and the Reservoir is also part of Friends of the Everglades. This photo was for my mother. 🙂-Thank you SFWMD STAFF! -with David Anderson, RYAN inspector, whom I had met on my previous trip. Thanks David! -TCPalm’s photographer, Crystal Vanderweit, JTL, and environmental reporter, Max Chesnes.-Drew Bartlett, E.D. SFWMD and Bradley Watson, Everglades Foundation.Great that Bradley and Eric Eichenberg joined us too! -JTL and Eve Samples, Friends of the Everglades contemplating the future…-Site photographs, Strorm Water Treatment Area.-My favorite photo of the day, Kym Hurchalla, granddaughter of Martin County’s late environmental leader, Maggy Hurchalla, looks over at what will become the STA. If anything, everglades restoration is generational…-“Black Gold” from the site. Muck, scraped and stored, now used to grow vegetation to protect the levees.-Everything feels big out here! Everything is big out here! -Sugarcane fields transforming into the EAA Reservoir/STA…
Thank you to SFWMD‘s Flicker and my brother, Todd Thurlow, for photos included in this post – all are public!