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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Indian River County

Public/private partnership has potential to improve health of lagoon
Rating: 2.89 / 5 (28 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Sep 20 - 06:37

Study determines that Grove Land Utilities Water Project would reduce detrimental discharges

For Hometown News

TREASURE COAST -- As the public looks to explore any and all projects and plans that could help the struggling Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary, a recent feasibility study provides encouraging news about the positive impact on water quality that could be generated through the Grove Land Utilities Water Project.

In 2009, the South Florida and St. Johns River Water Management Districts completed a study recommending that the two Districts be hydraulically reconnected, with reservoirs and Stormwater Treatment Areas that would capture water to reduce detrimental discharges to the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River.

In July 2013, a Financial Feasibility Study of the Grove Land Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area was commissioned as a collaborative effort and funded by Evans' Properties (the parent company of Grove Land Utilities LLC), the two Water Management Districts and the State of Florida.

The GLRSTA Phase 1 report contains findings that show an improvement in the health of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon could be achieved if the C-25 Reconnect Plan were to move forward.

The C-25 Reconnect Plan would provide improved water quality, aquifer recharge and improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River by reducing freshwater discharges. The project's approximate 3,000-acre reservoir and approximate 2,000-acre stormwater treatment area would be constructed on land owned by Evans Properties, Inc. in Okeechobee and Indian River Counties.

The reservoir and STA would be capable of storing a minimum of 67,000 acre-feet of water (the equivalent of 33,000 Olympic size swimming pools) per year that is currently released to tide after every storm event as it travels down through the C-23, C-24 and C-25 canals to the river, lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.

If built, the reservoir would reduce damaging tidal discharges every year, and improve the health of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon while providing a significant, new source of water. More than 21 billion of gallons of water a year would no longer be discharged from these SFWMD canals. At the same time, the reservoir could generate approximately 57 million gallons of water a day to serve as a renewable source of water for surrounding communities that currently rely on groundwater withdrawal.

"It's encouraging to see a private landowner step up and consider investing in water treatment services that can be implemented in a timely fashion to help improve the health of the estuary and lagoon," said Doug Bournique, Governing Board Member of the St. John's Water Management District and Executive Director of the Indian River Citrus League.

"A project like this could be designed and constructed within 5 years as opposed to the 25 year timeline for the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Central Everglades Planning Project," said Mr. Bournique.

Evans Utilities believes this type of public private partnership that provides sufficient revenue for the environmental benefits for the Indian River Lagoon and the St Lucie estuary would enable them to pursue the project. Financing for capital costs would likely be available, allowing them to design and construct the project within a few years and provide a significant near-term benefit to the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie estuary. It would also allow the South Florida Water Management District to avoid significant capital costs as well as the need to purchase the underlying land.

Key benefits of the GLRSTA Project:

o A reduction in the amount of water released to the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon that is the equivalent of 33,000 Olympic size swimming pools.

o The Stormwater and Reservoir would be able to filter and reduce the amount of total phosphorus entering the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon by more than 29 metric tons (or 63,800 pounds.)

o An estimated 57 million gallons per day of additional water supply on an average annual basis could be sold to water utilities to satisfy growing water demands. The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) could also utilize this freshwater supply to benefit the St. Johns River.

"The plan is an innovative and unprecedented opportunity to positively impact the health of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon - serving the dual purpose of reducing unwanted water that harms the river as it goes to tide while also capturing that same water that is needed for water supply elsewhere. It could be used as a template in other parts of Florida," said Ron Edwards, president and CEO of Evans Properties.

An important assumption of the feasibility study is that the historic hydraulic connection between the SFWMD and the SJRWMD be re-established. This would enable water managers to make inter-district water discharges when opportunities arise to benefit flood protection, water supply, and/or natural resources. Phase 2 of the study will also consider improvements that need to be made to the C-25 Canal to increase its water conveyance capacity.

It is also an opportunity to implement a project on a quicker timeline than some of the long-term CERP and CEPP plans. The GLRSTA Project could be designed and constructed within the next 5 years and begin full operation in 2020. It would be designed, permitted, constructed, operated and maintained by GLU through a public-private partnership with the SFWMD and/or the SJRWMD. The partnership has yet to be defined. Project beneficiaries would make payments for water management services to cover project costs.

"We are optimistic about the opportunity to play a role in providing public benefits in the form of water services that can help the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon as part of a new way to sustain our agricultural operations," said Edwards.

For more information about Evans Properties go to www.evansprop.com.

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