An Update from Captains for Clean Water —
Senate Bill 2508 was a sneak attack, an unexpected attempt to derail clean-water progress. It was a battle waged with extreme implications and potentially catastrophic consequences—one that nobody saw coming. Thankfully, with your help, we stopped that attempt and prevented it from harming our waterways.
So, now that SB 2508 has been buried, what’s next?
Unfortunately, there will be more attempts just like SB 2508 in the future. We never know exactly when the next one will drop, but we’re always ready for when it does—we need you to be ready too.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other ongoing clean-water efforts that we need you to stay involved in and be prepared for. Here are a few upcoming priorities that we’ll need your help with as we put SB 2508 further into the rear-view mirror:
1. Bringing LOSOM in for a landing
- What is it? LOSOM—the future Lake Okeechobee operations manual—will determine where and when water is released in the Lake O system for the next ten years. It will dictate discharges to the coasts and the amount of water moving south to the Everglades.
- Current Status: Since selecting the scientific model for the final plan last November, the Army Corps of Engineers has been “wrapping the words around the numbers,” turning that scientific model into a usable operations manual, just like you would have for a car. The first draft of that operations manual, known as the Water Control Plan (WCP) will be released for stakeholder and public feedback in August of 2022. There is a good chance we’ll need you to be involved in that public input process, so stay tuned.
- Estimated Completion: April 2023. The new plan was originally scheduled for implementation in January 2023 to coincide with completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike fortification, but delays in the LOSOM and dike repairs process have pushed completion to April.
2. Keeping the EAA Reservoir on track
- What is it? The EAA Reservoir is a keystone project of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Made up of a 10,500-acre storage reservoir and 6,500-acre Stormwater Treatment Area (STA), the project will significantly reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers by storing and cleaning excess water from the lake before sending it south to the Everglades, where it once flowed naturally and where it’s needed most.
- Current Status: As a 50/50 Federal/State project share, the Army Corps is responsible for the storage reservoir and the South Florida Water Management District is responsible for the STA. Construction has been underway on the STA since April 2020, and they have recently broken ground on the seepage canal between the STA and the storage reservoir. The next big step will be the construction contract for the reservoir embankment, which should be awarded by the Army Corps in September 2022. There is also an ongoing lawsuit between the sugar industry and the Army Corps of Engineers over use of the water that will be held in the reservoir. The lawsuit was filed last August by U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, who are suing for rights to the water. The outcome of the lawsuit—which should be decided around August 2022—will determine how much water the Everglades Agricultural Area is entitled to, ultimately affecting how much water will be allowed south to hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay.
- Estimated Completion: 2029. Due to the massive scale of the overall project, the timeline for completion is extensive. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on progress, expedite projects whenever possible, and ensure funding continues from both the state of Florida and the Federal Government. In its original form, SB 2508 would have diluted funding to this critical project. Thankfully, that diversion of funds was avoided—it’s imperative that never happens as we continue forward.
3. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
- What is it? WRDA is a biennial (every two years) federal bill that authorizes new water infrastructure projects and makes improvements to water programs across the country.
- Current Status: Has passed the House and now sits with the Senate. U.S. Congressman Brian Mast has a great page that breaks down this year’s bill. It explains the importance of all the Florida provisions, including priorities like expediting the EAA Reservoir, combating harmful algal blooms, and removing legacy nutrient pollution from Lake O. This WRDA will also require development of the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP), designed to complement CERP and achieve zero harmful lake discharges.
- Estimated Completion: It is expected that the Senate will pass the final legislation and submit to the president for signature in August 2022. We’ve seen sneak attacks weasel their way into past WRDA bills, like in 2020, when special interests tried to inject harmful language into WRDA under the cover the COVID-19 pandemic. We ultimately derailed that attempt, but it’s a reminder of why we have to always be diligent during these processes, and why we need you to stay in the loop.
As we go forward with advancing these priorities, Senate Bill 2508 should serve as a reminder of why we have to stay involved in these efforts. These are all very complex issues, and it can be challenging to stay plugged in. Special interests hell-bent on maintaining the status quo will take advantage of that.
That’s why it’s so important to stay educated on the fight for clean water. By understanding the issues and staying tuned in to what’s going on, you can spread more awareness and generate more support to restore and protect our waterways.
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