Everglades restoration efforts got some much-needed help in a major water package signed by President Obama in June.
On June 10, Obama "signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, authorizing 34 water projects across the country at a total cost of $12.3 billion over the next 10 years," the Associated Press reported.
"Included in the bill is over $800 million for the two Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Projects on the Caloosahatchee River," Fox 4 reported. "The main goal of the projects is to reduce harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary by capturing a portion of the high flow releases from Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season."
Florida officials had been frustrated that Everglades restoration efforts have been underfunded and struggling. The difficulties of the Boma project illustrate these challenges.
In the Boma project, a Florida water agency made a costly property investment in order to improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee River. Protecting the Caloosahatchee River is a centerpiece of joint state and federal efforts to restore the Everglades. But as of May, it appeared the agency did not have enough cash to follow through with the plan.
The plan centered on an expensive property buy. The South Florida Water Management District teamed up with Lee County in 2007 to buy 1,770 acres known as the Boma property, according to News-Press. The water district paid $27.3 million, and the county added $10 million.
Nutrient removal testing was the goal of these heavy investments. "The project’s purpose is to investigate and test new strategies for reducing TN in the C-43 Canal to improve water quality in downstream estuarine ecosystems," the South Florida Environmental Report said.
"The first step will be for the district to build a series of small test impoundments to determine which plant species or combinations of species are the most efficient nitrogen removers — nitrogen can cause harmful algal blooms in the river and estuary. The blooms then remove the oxygen, strangling the fish," the news report said.
But the district has not had access to enough money to move forward on this step.
"We have land, but we have to find funds," said Phil Flood, director of the water district's Lower West Coast Service Center, in the news report. "Conceivably, we could get funding from the state through the Legislature. If Lee County wishes to contribute, that would be great as well."
Image credit: "Everglades and Turner River," chaunceydavis818 © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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