After years of remaining on hold, the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir off SR 80 just west of LaBelle, is finally seeing activity again.
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Intergovernmental & Outreach Representative Phil Flood told the January 14 LaBelle City Commission that the project had been back burnered for years due to lack of funding.
The $584.6 million project cost is shared between the federal government and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
A secondary recreational component will be funded by SFWMD and is expected to take another three or four years to complete after the essential water project is complete and funding secured.
The reservoir is on a 10,000-acre site and intended to hold excess stormwater and Lake Okeechobee overflow totaling some 170,000 acre-feet or water in above ground cells during the wet season. During the dry season, this water can be released as needed, without inundating the Caloosahatchee Estuary and upsetting the ecological balance there.
The project is a joint venture by SFWMD and the Corps of Engineers; part of the Everglades Restoration.
Phase I of the construction project has begun, including Cell 1, improvements to the Townsend Canal, manatee mitigation, two pump stations and a portion of the perimeter canals. It is expected to provide some 76 jobs.
Crews are also doing prep work for the extensive berms, along with grubbing and clearing. Some one million cubic yards of dirt will be mounded to help compact the earth
The next two construction contracts will involve pre-loading and site demolition (April 2016-September 2017), putting in pump stations (December 2016-November 2018) and reservoir construction (March 2017-July 2010). Berms for the 12-mile perimeter will be 25-35 feet high.
Work is expected to be completed in 2020.
Referring to questions by locals concerning possible seepage, Mr. Flood said SFWMD is confident in its design work.
Mr. Flood also provided information on other ongoing SFWMD projects in Hendry County:
S-169 Structure Relocation
Replacement of a water control structure located at the Clewiston Boat Basin. Relocation approximately two miles west of current site could enable additional boat access to the lake.
– Remove structure following Corps of Engineer completion of C-2 structure replacement
– Complete construction of fall 2017
– City of Clewiston to seek legislative funding for bridge replacement.
Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie Restoration:
Project converts 15,000 acres of citrus grove in south Hendry County (Southern Gardens) the historical Everglades wet prairie.
– Restore hydrology and ecology; construct flow equalization basin for STA 5/6
– Multi-year project to improve ground water and surface water hydrology, water supply and water quality
– $1,463,000 contracted awarded December 2015
– Construct January-December 2016
– 2,875-acre site leveling, culvert removal (246 8:, 247 8”) and abandon 15 irrigation wells.
Four Hendry County spoil sites north of the river have been approved as surplus, for a total of 169 acres.
The Boma Water Quality Treatment and Testing Facility on 1,770 acres on SR 80 at the Ortona Lock is being developed to remove nitrogen from the Caloosahatchee watershed. Construction of mesocosms (experiments that encapsulate a small part of a specific ecology under controlled conditions) is to begin this April. A 20-year lease for 260 acres to UF/IFAS for Best Management Practice and citrus research is contemplated. Citrus is anticipated to continue on the property till the facility is constructed.
In Glades County, water quality and environmental enhancement is the object of the Lake Hicpochee North Hydrologic Enhancement project. It involves acquisition of 638 acres for storage with an option for an additional 2,454 acres for $17.6 million. Construction is to begin this year.
Five dispersed water storage programs with private and public landowners:
Nicodemus Slough (Glades) 34,000 acre-feet, operational
Mudge Ranch (Glades), 396 acre-feet, operational
Alico Ranch (Hendry), 91,944 acre-feet, design and permitting underway
Babcock Ranch LLC (Charlotte), 1,214 ace-feet, design and permitting underway
Babcock Ranch State Preserve (Charlotte), 1,500 acre-feet, design and permitting underway.
SFWMD projects have the following legislative priorities: C-43 Reservoir construction; Completion of existing projects; Governor’s budget; and FDEP: Lake Hicpochee acquisition (2,454 acres).
SFWMD is also committed to renewing the LaBelle Passive Park Lease. The current lease on the 186-acres site on the north side of the Caloosahatchee River expires April 30, 2016. Mr. Flood noted that there may be opportunities to partner with Florida Department of Transportation for stormwater improvements.