The C-44 Reservoir: The Rest of the Story

The South Florida Water Management District’s June 2017 video presentation on the C-44 Reservoir construction project in Martin County is trying to say that this reservoir is the solution to excess stormwater runoff that plagues the St. Lucie River, Estuary, and Indian River Lagoon with nutrient pollution and toxic algae.  Although the C-44 project is a good project, it is too small to help with the larger problem of stormwater runoff in South Florida.

When completed the 3,400 acre C-44 Reservoir will hold 16 billion gallons of water. The reservoir is designed to hold and treat water from the St. Lucie River Basin, which in 2016 contributed slightly more than 63 billion gallons to the river and estuary. If managed dynamically, the reservoir could handle perhaps as much as 48-64 billion gallons per year. How, then will the C-44 Reservoir be able to help reduce the harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges? In short, it will be of no help. In a high water year like 2016, the reservoir will barely be able to handle local runoff.

Consider, in addition, that if the C-44 Reservoir had been in place in 2016 and filled entirely with excess water from Lake Okeechobee, it would have reduced the 220 billion gallons discharged into the St. Lucie River from the lake by about 7 percent, or if managed dynamically, by 22-29 percent. Clearly, much more storage is necessary to reduce the harmful discharges.

The Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir conceived by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Governor Scott is the single best project to help reduce the harmful discharges and restore needed flows of fresh water south of Lake Okeechobee. The South Florida Water Management District knows that concerned citizens are watching to see how the District will meet the requirements imposed on them by the new state law for the EAA Reservoir. We will not be distracted by continued arguments offered by the District that there are better alternatives to fix the water resources management situation in South Florida that benefits sugar producers and no one else. In February 2017 the District promoted the many benefits the C-44 project will provide, including especially employment effects. Considering that the EAA Reservoir should be at least four times larger, we hope that the District will develop similar information is support of the EAA Reservoir.

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