Is the C-43 reservoir project for irrigation water supply or for estuary protection?


Back in the mid-90’s when the concept of a C-43 reservoir was initially raised, the farmers were told it would be an irrigation water supply reservoir.  Then as environmental concerns came to the fore, the SFWMD sold the reservoir project concept to the public as being dedicated solely to the alleviation of Caloosahatchee Estuary stresses from both high flows and low flows.


Now, as construction approaches, agricultural interests are again seeking to tap into the C-43 reservoir project, raising the question whether the SFWMD and Corps of Engineers have employed a “bait-and-switch” tactic relative to securing support for the expensive water storage project.


Part of the problem is the inability of the reservoir to deliver the water to the estuary without that water being subject to interception and diversion once it leaves the reservoir and travels along the canals and river towards the estuary.  Irrigation systems along Townsend Canal and effectively any users along the Caloosahatchee River between the Ortona and Franklin Lock could potentially capture portions of the released reservoir water.


Thus, unless special irrigation rules are enacted for estuary low-flow times, the C-43 reservoir may not do much to improve the dry-season ecology of the estuary.


The question of irrigation water demand does not, however, affect the function of the reservoir in reducing the high flows to the estuary during the wet season.