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Army Corps Changes Course, Says Reservoir South Of Lake Okeechobee Must Wait

The bulrushes rimming Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Amy Green

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reversing its stance and now says it must follow a schedule calling for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in 2021.

The corps had said it could accelerate the project aimed at improving water flow after toxic algae blooms last year prompted emergency declarations in four counties.

Colonel Jason Kirk now says the reservoir must wait.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is committed to the Integrated Delivery Schedule that we’ve worked very closely with our partner, and a strong partner, South Florida Water Management District, to develop. And that has Everglades Agricultural Area study in 2021.”

The reservoir is part of a $17 billion restoration of the Everglades, the world’s largest of its kind. Legislation calls for speeding up the project, but it faces strong opposition.

Environmental groups say the change does not affect the legislation.

Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation says the proposal pushed by Senate President Joe Negron includes language accelerating the project.

“You get caught in red tape. You get caught in bureaucratic gobble-dee-gook, and unfortunately it’s delay. This is the classic problem with the Everglades. Delay, delay, delay.”

Meanwhile the corps also says it could speed up a $1.8 billion refurbishment of Lake Okeechobee’s dike with additional funding.

Kirk says the aging dike is prone to seepage.

“What I can tell you is that if we had additional funds that we could move faster, to the tune of about three years faster.”

Central Florida Senator David Simmons has introduced legislation calling for the project to move faster after excess lake water triggered the toxic blooms.

Kirk says the corps will undertake a study as the dike rehabilitation nears completion into how much more water the state’s largest lake could hold.

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »