HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. -- A key piece keeping the estuary in Southwest Florida healthy is a water storage project called the C-43 reservoir.
“The purpose of this reservoir is to improve the health of our estuary, the caloosahatchee estuary,” said Phil Flood, Southwest Florida Water Management District.
It’s a part of the South Florida Water Management District’s Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP, which is a total of 68 projects planned for North, South, East, and West of Lake Okeechobee. The goal of CERP is to restoring the natural flow of water fro Lake O to the Everglades.
The C-43 Reservoir is on 10,500 acres of land and can store up to 55 billion gallons of water.
“This is going to be an above ground reservoir, the dam is going to be approximately 30-35 feet,” said Flood.
During the rainy season when there’s too much freshwater from basin run-off or the Army Corps of Engineers is making releases from Lake Okeechobee it’ll capture the water through an inflow pump.
“During the dry season when the estuary needs fresh water we will then release this water out to the estuary," said Flood.
"This location was chosen because there's a thick layer of clay beneath it, it doesn't allow water to go through very easily, we want to try to create a bath tub," said Thomas McKernan, C.E.T. Construction Manager.
“That clay layer down at the bottom will keep that water from percolating down, it will hold it in place,” said Flood.
It's all about salt and to balance the salt level in the water where the Caloosahatchee meets the Gulf of Mexico.
This is important for the marine life, which in turn helps our economy.
It's a four package project, with two complete.
“We are moving forward with a feasibility study to identify a water quality component that we can utilize where we can take the water in here clean it, before it gets released into the estuary,” said Flood.
This will be opened up for public input in the fall, with the goal of finding a way to clean excess nitrogen from the water.
The total cost of the C-43 reservoir is estimated to cost $1 billion dollars. The project is expected to be complete by 2023.
The reservoir project was intended to be a 50-50 split with the federal government and the state. This legislative session the project was given 140 million dollars to continue construction. The federal government will be reimbursing the South Florida Water Management District on another project under CERP.