March 23, 2017
Caloosahatchee reservoir critical to storage needs
By Mitch Hutchcraft
Without question, Everglades restoration projects benefit all South Florida families because our way of life is so intimately connected to a healthy, vibrant ecosystem. The master blueprint for this unprecedented effort is called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Each project in CERP was purposefully designed and timed to provide the optimal sequence of restoration to achieve success.
Speaking as your South Florida Water Management District Governing Board representative on the Southwest coast, I can tell you our time is now. Our project is the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir that will store water for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. The 10,700-acre facility, which is currently in construction, can store 170,000 acre-feet of water when there is too much flowing to the river and supply water when it’s too dry, as we are seeing today. This flexibility helps restore and maintain the ecological health of the river and estuary.
The estuary’s fish, oysters, seagrasses and indeed the Southwest Coast economy absolutely need this project finished. That’s why I fully support U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Jason A. Kirk and his ground troops on their Everglades restoration efforts. The commander of the Corps’ Jacksonville District reaffirmed this week his commitment to the federal and state restoration partnership with SFWMD, but more importantly, he expressed his solid support of the project sequence timeline known as the Integrated Delivery Schedule.
We have an absolute duty to South Florida families and businesses to finish what we started before taking on more projects. Along with Col. Kirk, I believe U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples summed it up best when he said, “The federal government needs to fund what they have committed to fund … It would be best for our community to be united and focused on funding the projects now authorized and to complete the priority projects agreed upon by the state and federal governments included in CERP’s Integrated Delivery Schedule.”
Kirk gets it. Rooney gets it. I get that speeding up planning or implementation of projects sounds positive. But tackling projects out of scientifically derived sequence in the pursuit of new short-term solutions, or diverting funds from approved efforts to projects that over promise, under achieve and are not cost effective to our overall goal.
Holding steadfast to the CERP blueprint is the only way forward.
Mitch Hutchcraft is a member of the Governing Board for the South Florida Water Management District.