Scientists review plan to store water north of lake

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WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) are studying every aspect of Aquifer Storage and Recovery while proceeding with plans to phase in up to 80 ASR wells north of Lake Okeechobee.

SFWMD held a technical workshop with SFWMD and USACOE scientists along with an independent scientific peer review panel for the district’s efforts related to ASR on July 22 and 23.

The two-day workshop included summaries of previous ASR projects, a review of decades of research and studies, and a review of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP).

Michelle Ferree, SFWMD project manager for LOWRP, said LOWRP is a Comprehensive Everglades Recovery Plan (CERP) project that focuses on storage features north of Lake Okeechobee. It includes three major components: above-ground storage, ASR wells and wetland restoration.

The 80 ASR wells would provide 448,000 acre-feet of storage per year. The 13,600-acre shallow storage feature will provide about 46,000 acre -feet of storage. The restoration of 1,200 acres of wetlands in the Kissimmee River Center area and 3,500 acres in Paradise Run is not a storage project.

ASR wells can complement above-ground storage to improve storage with a small footprint, she explained.

During a high lake stage event, water in the reservoir could be pumped into the ASRs, allowing the reservoir to be filled more than once.

LOWRP will improve the amount of time Lake Okeechobee is in the ecologically preferred stage envelope of 12 to 15 feet, by storing excess water north of the lake in wet years and releasing that water back to the lake during droughts, she said.

When combined with EAA reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project south of the lake, computer modeling shows LOWRP will achieve an 80 percent reduction in harmful discharge events to the coastal estuaries. (The EAA reservoir is still in the design phase. The STA is under construction.)

The increased water supply will also reduce the cutbacks to permitted users by 24% during dry periods.

Tim Gysan, USACOE project manager for LOWRP, said the LOWRP Project Implementation Report (PIR) was submitted seven months ago. He said they anticipate the final report should be available for review within the next month.

While water quality is not an objective of LOWRP, “we do anticipate some ancillary benefits,” said Ferree. The ASR test well on the Kissimmee River was found to significantly reduce phosphorus levels.

Jennifer Gent, USACOE project engineer, said the state provided $50 million in fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 to jump start work on storage north of Lake Okeechobee and they are expecting another $50 million in FY 2020-21. Construction of the ASR wells will be in phases because the funding is phased.

The entire project is projected to cost nearly $2 billion. The 80 ASR wells will cost an estimated $400 million.

She said they have started doing assessment and repairs on two existing ASR wells in the project areas.

They are also evaluating new technology for treating the water to drinking water standards before it is pumped into the aquifer. The test well on the Kissimmee River is 15 years old. There have been advances in technology in that time.

A bid is currently out to do geotechnical drilling for core samples on state-owned land where the wells are planned.

Permit applications have been submitted to Department of Environmental Protection to build the first exploratory wells.

The peer review panel included experts geology, karst geomorphology, geochemistry, hyrdogeology, aquatic chemistry, ecohydrology and biology.

• Dr. Jon Arthur is the state geologist of Florida and director of the Florida Geological Survey. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, recipient of the American Institute of Professional Geologists Public Service Award, and has served as president of the Florida Association of Professional Geologists and of the Association of American State Geologists. He is a member of both the Florida Board of Professional Geologists and the American Geosciences Institute Executive Committee. He was recently appointed to the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences

• Dr. Sam B. Upchurch, P.G. has spent 50 years teaching and conducting research in karst geomorphology and geochemistry, for which he is internationally known. He is also an expert in the application of statistics to geological problems, design of sampling plans and engineering geology. He is the author of over 200 articles and chapters in books, and has edited several published collections of papers. He is a Senior Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA) and has received numerous awards for his research and service to the geological community. He is a former professor and chairman of the Geology Department at the University of South Florida (USF). is the senior author of “The Karst Systems of Florida.”

• Thomas M. Missimer is the director of the Emergent Technologies Institute and an Eminent Scholar in hydrogeology and water resources with U.A. Whitaker School of Engineering, Florida Gulf Coast, and an eminent scholar in hydrogeology and water resources. He conducts research in hydrogeology, sedimentary geology, water resources management, and geochemistry. He founded three consulting companies that specialized in groundwater development, water management and remediation of groundwater contamination. He worked in a management and technical capacity as a consultant for 35 years before entering academia. He was a visiting professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia before beginning an association of FGCU. He became an eminent scholar in hydrology at FGCU in 2017 and became director of the Emergent Technologies Institute in 2019.

• Rene Price is a professor in Earth and environment, Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment at Florida International University. Dr. Price’s research interests include the general areas of hydrogeology, ecohydrology and low-temperature aqueous geochemistry in carbonate terrains. Her research involves using chemical tracers, including the isotopes of oxygen, hydrogen, and major ions to identify water sources, groundwater flow paths and groundwater-surface water interactions. Her research has been conducted extensively in South Florida, including the Everglades, as well as in the Yucatan of Mexico and Mallorca, Spain.

• Reid Hyle is a biologist at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

asr, featured, lowrp

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