Southern Agenda

Let It Flow

Rarely has a hole in the ground provided cause for such celebration, but the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir is no ordinary farm pond. Earlier this year, workers turned the first shovelful of dirt for the reservoir, a $3 billion project south of Lake Okeechobee that is the largest and most important piece of the federal government’s complex Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The main reservoir will cover just over ten thousand acres, with a separate stormwater treatment area. Once complete (it should take about seven years to finish), the impoundment will capture polluted water from Lake O, filter it through constructed treatment wetlands, and then send the water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. In conjunction with other projects that are underway, the reservoir will, its proponents hope, reduce the famously nasty algae-feeding discharges of polluted water by more than half and send an annual payload of 120 billion gallons of cleaned fresh water to South Florida. Think of this as bypass surgery for the Everglades, says Steve Davis, chief science officer for the Everglades Foundation. “This is a way to get that life-saving water south,” Davis explains. “This project doesn’t mean our work is done, but it is something to celebrate.”