OKEECHOBEE – A plan for an above ground reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee will be discussed on Thursday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. at the Indian River State College Dixon Hendry Campus, 2229 N.W. Nith Avenue, Okeechobee.
The proposed reservoir would hold about 200,000 acre feet of water -- storage equal to 56 billion gallons of water, or about 4.6 inches on Lake Okeechobee.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), as the non-Federal sponsor for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), is conducting a Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir (LOCAR). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and the SFWMD are hosting two National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Scoping Meetings to discuss the study and receive public input. To maximize participation and increase engagement, the same meeting will be held twice at different times. Both meetings will discuss the same subject matter, and the public may attend one or both of the meetings. Plans call for the meetings to also allow online participation.
Through this process, the SFWMD will explore opportunities for aboveground water storage north of Lake Okeechobee. The study area covers a large portion of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed north of Lake Okeechobee and will provide ecological benefits to the lake and the northern estuaries.
The purpose of this proposed reservoir is to store excess water in the northern watersheds and release the excess water at times when it is beneficial for the region. This increased storage capacity will reduce the duration and frequency of both high and low water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which are harmful to Lake Okeechobee’s ecology. With these improvements to Lake Okeechobee levels, the reservoir will also help reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries.
On Jan. 10, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 23-06 (Achieving Even More Now for Florida’s Environment) to further expedite restoration projects and advance the protection of Florida’s natural resources. In the order, the South Florida Water Management District is directed to make every effort to advance Everglades restoration projects to ensure meaningful progress over the next four years, including all Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) storage components within the Lake Okeechobee watershed. The South Florida Water Management District continues its efforts to implement all on-going CERP storage projects like the EAA Reservoir, Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, Caloosahatchee (C-43) Reservoir, and Indian River Lagoon-South reservoirs.
The SFWMD, as the non-Federal sponsor for CERP, is also conducting a Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir (LOCAR) under Section 203 of the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986, as amended. The Feasibility Study and EIS will explore opportunities for aboveground water storage north of Lake Okeechobee with an estimated water storage capacity of 200,000 acre-feet. The study area covers a large portion of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed north of Lake Okeechobee and will provide ecological benefits to the lake and the northern estuaries. Once complete, the feasibility study and EIS will be submitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works for consideration by Congress in the Water Resources Development Act of 2024.
Proposed planning timeline:
• Project Scoping – April 2023;
• Identify Alternatives/Recommended Plan – May 2023;
• Draft Feasibility Study – September 2023;
• Final Feasibility Study – December 2023.