ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an agreement Thursday with the Army Corps of Engineers that will continue work on a key reservoir in Everglades restoration.
Work on the long-stalled Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir in western Palm Beach County is to be shared between the state and federal governments. DeSantis said Thursday’s agreement will accelerate the Army Corps portion of the project.
“We think this project is absolutely essential,” the governor said at a news conference, with work on the reservoir as a backdrop. “A lot of people throughout Florida are happy that we’re finally tackling this in a really comprehensive way.”
The state and federal governments have spent billions of dollars over the years on restoration of the Everglades. The vast wetland suffers from lack of adequate fresh water and also fertilizer-laden runoff that brings unwanted nutrients to the system.
One recent and costly project was raising five miles of Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County to allow better water flows toward Everglades National Park.
The reservoir will have a water storage component and a wetland with vegetation that can cleanse water from Lake Okeechobee, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
The plan is to sharply reduce the Lake Okeechobee discharges down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers to estuaries where the water is blamed for blue-green algae blooms and other environmental problems.
“It will reduce if not end discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” said former state Sen. Joe Negron, who worked on Everglades issues in the Legislature.
DeSantis said environmental issue would remain a priority as lawmakers wrestle to complete a state budget over the next week or so.
“I think people are going to be really, really satisfied with what we’re doing in terms of the budget for protecting Florida’s water resources and what we’re doing for our infrastructure related to water,” the governor said.
Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades National Park, called construction of the reservoir a major milestone in restoring the ecosystem.
“This is progress. This is it. We’re making it happen,” Ramos said.