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8 Things To Know About The EAA Reservoir

Wherever you live in Florida, the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir will have an impact on your life.

For those in South Florida, the reservoir means protecting the source of your drinking water. For those along the Treasure Coast and the Gulf Coast, it means a dramatic reduction in the algae-causing discharges that ruin fishing and close beaches. Even if you live in North Florida, the EAA Reservoir means restoration of the iconic Florida Everglades and protecting our state’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry and the millions of jobs it generates.

1. What is the “EAA Reservoir” anyway?

“EAA” stands for “Everglades Agricultural Area.” The EAA Reservoir will be located south of Lake Okeechobee and is designed to store excess Lake Okeechobee water so it can be purified in an adjacent stormwater treatment area (STA) and then sent south to nurture the Everglades and Florida Bay. The reservoir will also supply clean freshwater to millions in South Florida and help reduce harmful discharges of polluted Lake Okeechobee water to Florida’s east and west coasts.

The EAA Reservoir has been called “the crown jewel of Everglades restoration,” as it is the single most important project to store, clean, and send water south from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades, helping restore South Florida’s natural freshwater flow.

2. How big is the project, and how much water will it hold?

At a combined 16,600 acres, the 10,100-acre EAA Reservoir and its 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area will be bigger than Manhattan and Staten Island combined. The reservoir itself will store about 78 billion gallons (enough water to fill more than 118,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and lower water levels in Lake Okeechobee by about six inches.

3. Why is the EAA Reservoir needed?

The reservoir will provide badly needed water to America’s Everglades, which is arid in the dry season. The water will also help recharge the aquifer that provides drinking water to millions in South Florida and will help balance the salinity of Florida Bay. The most visible improvements, however, will be along Florida’s east and west coasts, which have suffered perennial outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae and red tide, both of which are fed by discharges of polluted Lake Okeechobee water that will now be stored, cleaned, and sent south instead.

4. What effect will the EAA Reservoir have on toxic blue-green algae and red tide?

The South Florida Water Management District has calculated that, in conjunction with other Everglades restoration projects already underway, the EAA Reservoir will reduce algae-causing discharges of polluted Lake Okeechobee water by 55 percent – all while sending 120 billion gallons of clean, freshwater to the Everglades and Florida Bay every year.

5. How much will the project cost?

The EAA Reservoir is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a joint project by the federal government and the State of Florida. The state, which owns the land, has spent $290 million constructing the 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area, while the federal government will construct the reservoir itself, at an estimated cost of $3 billion.

6. When will it be done?

The State of Florida estimates that it will complete its portion of the project sometime next year. The Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, plans to complete the reservoir by 2029, followed by testing of the system through 2031.

7. Has there been progress?

Ground was broken on the 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area in 2021, and work is continuing apace. Barring any unforeseen developments, work will be completed sometime in 2023.

Meanwhile, contracts were recently advertised and awarded to construct the reservoir itself.

8. How is the funding coming?

The State of Florida has continued to fulfill its obligations to complete the project, and the Biden Administration dedicated $1.1 billion toward Everglades restoration in the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill that was passed last November. That’s on top of the $350 million for the Everglades in the Fiscal Year 2022 federal budget.

The President has proposed another $407 million for the Everglades in the FY 2023 budget, the highest amount the Everglades has ever received in Washington’s annual budget, bringing the Administration’s total commitment to the Everglades to over $1.85 billion if the FY23 budget number becomes law. Moreover, Congress has proposed an even higher number of $447 million for FY 2023.

Of these sums, the Biden Administration has committed over $300 million of FY22 funding and plans to allocate a similar amount of FY23 funding to the construction of the EAA Reservoir.

Watch our 2-minute video about the EAA Reservoir

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