July 2, 2009
To PURRE Members:
Chairman Mike Valiquette, Public Policy Director Dan Wexler, and PURRE Board Member Greg Rawls participated in a joint meeting of the Caloosahatchee Watershed Working Group and the Southwest Florida Watershed Council on Monday, June 29.
The meeting included a presentation from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) on a number of projects in our area.
The initial presentation was from Ken Ammon, Deputy Executive Director for Everglades Restoration for the SFWMD.
The C-43 West Reservoir
The first project covered was the C-43 West Reservoir and the C-43 water quality component. The C-43 West Reservoir is one of the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP.
This project consists of an above-ground reservoir located south of the Caloosahatchee River and west of the Ortona lock on approximately 10,500 acres in Hendry County, west of Labelle. The storage capacity is estimated at 170,000 acre feet of water (over 50 billion gallons) with depths ranging from 15 to 25 feet.
The benefits of the project include improving the timing, quantity, and quality of freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee River estuary.
It will also improve the salinity balance for the Caloosahatchee estuary by controlling peak flows during the wet season and providing essential flows during the dry season.
Additionally, the project will provide an additional source of water to meet irrigation needs and will provide recreational, tourism, and environmental education opportunities.
While C-43 is an important project, it is only a partial answer. It is important to put it in perspective. Again considering C-43 in the context of a solution to the overall problem, it is very important but it is also clear that moving water south must be part of the long-term solution.
This project has been in process since early in this decade. The test cells are complete and final design was finished more than one year ago. The permits have been obtained and it is ready to go.
There is one hold-up which is taking place in Washington, D.C. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is holding up the project over land valuation and crediting policy. SFWMD and others including PURRE will be asking OMB to approve the project quickly so work can begin. Even if OMB resolves the land valuation issue this summer, it could be more than a year before they can start digging.
Since we started PURRE, there has been a concern about the C-43 Reservoir with respect to the quality of water it will store. When we first started talking about the importance of C-43, there was no water treatment component.
Since then Lee County, along with SFWMD, has acquired 1,770 acres and is in the process of developing a design for this facility to determine the most important water quality parameters for this project. This is great news.
River of Grass Land Acquisition
We also received an update on the River of Grass Land Acquisition. As we wrote about earlier this year, Gov. Crist announced on April 1 a change in the proposal to acquire land owned by the United States Sugar Corporation in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
This proposal would revise the terms of the agreement but also preserve the ability of the state to purchase 180,000 acres of land in affordable increments.
The initial purchase would include 73,000 acres for $536 million. The agreement would include an option to purchase the additional 107,000 acres over the next 10 years.
This would be financed through Certificates of Participation. This is a method of financing in which an individual buys a share of the lease revenues of an agreement made by a municipal or government entity rather than a bond secured by those revenues. This is not a common method to finance land purchases.
It is anticipated that this will close sometime in 2010. There are some legal challenges brought by the Miccosukee Indian and U.S. Sugar competitor Florida Crystals, but the SFWMD expects the courts to validate the use of the Certificates of Participation to finance the deal.
We will keep you posted on these developments as they occur.
PURRE Water Coalition
2340 Periwinkle Way, J-2
Sanibel, FL 33957
239.472.2703 ... FAX 239.472.2365
email@example.com ... www.purre.org