By Tyler Treadway
November 10, 2016
The South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday approved a nearly $62.5 million project to help clean up the St. Lucie River by expanding the Caulkins water farm in western Martin County.
The 11-year contract with Caulkins Citrus Co. calls for the water farm to remove about 26 billion gallons of water a year from the C-44 Canal, keeping the water and the contaminants it carries from polluting the river.
For comparison’s sake, 26 billion gallons is slightly more than a tenth of the approximately 220 billion gallons of water that was discharged from Lake Okeechobee to the river this year.
The expansion project also will keep fertilizer nutrients that can feed algae blooms out of the river, including:
- 17,600 to 37,500 pounds of phosphorus (the weight of three to seven Cadillac Escalades)
- 123,500 to 271,000 pounds of nitrogen (22 to 50 Escalades)
The 3,275-acre expansion piggy-backs on the success of a 450-acre water farm on Caulkins’ former citrus groves. That pilot project was supposed to pull about 2.2 billion gallons of water a year out of the C-44 Canal, which runs from Lake O to the St. Lucie River, for an annual payment of $480,830.
In 2015 alone, the water farm removed nearly 5 billion gallons from the canal and kept another 540 million gallons of rainfall out of the canal.
From January 2014 to August 2016, the Caulkins project kept 12 billion gallons of water out of the St. Lucie River estuary, according to district statistics.
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