HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. — A massive, half-a-billion dollar project meant to protect southwest Florida’s paradise is now on hold after the construction company was fired.
Friday, the South Florida Water Management District chose to terminate the contract with C43 Water Management Builder, J.V. for the Caloosahatchee Reservoir Project (C-43) in Hendry County.
The 10,500-acre project will eventually store up to 55 billion gallons of water to restore the natural flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
“The contractor simply couldn’t stay on schedule and would not make the necessary changes to get back on schedule or prevent further delays,” SFWMD Communication Director Sean Cooley told Fox 4 Investigates in a statement.
The SFWMD claims the contractor averages “an additional 20 days of delay for every month on the job which would result in a project delivery upwards of three years late.”
The goal of the project is to protect southwest Florida’s waterways and cut down on the toxic algae blooms we often see.
During rainy season, when there’s too much freshwater run off or when the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Okeechobee, the reservoir will capture the water.
In the dry season, when the estuary needs fresh water, the water can be released from the reservoir.
“The completion of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) Reservoir is one of the highest priorities for the South Florida Water Management District given its significance to protecting the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. The Caloosahatchee Estuary and associated coastal water resources are directly tied to the wellbeing of the local economy and the way of life in Southwest Florida, particularly Lee County.”
The project broke ground in 2019 with an original competition date of 2023.
C43 Water Management Builder, J.V. were awarded the $524 million project.
The contractor disputes the water district's claims.
In a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the company in federal court, they claim the water district changed designs at least twice and caused further delays.
“There is no truth to the District’s self-serving statement. It was the District, and not the Contractor, who caused significant project delays and cost overruns that Florida taxpayers ultimately will have to bear,” the company said in a statement to Fox 4 Investigates. “Put simply, the District’s decision to terminate is both unlawful and senseless, and negatively affects the lives of many Floridians. (WMB) has at all times acted with integrity and excellence. We will defend ourselves and hold the District accountable.”
The SFWMD says they are evaluating their next steps in hopes of continuing construction soon.
However, there’s no timeline on when that might be.