From O'Laughlin and Gilio, 2018 white paper

Executive Summary


Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan [CERP’s] is a collection of 68 projects in various stages of completion, incrementally funded at 50/50 by the Federal and State of Florida governments. CERP’s southern reservoir, upon Senate and presidential approval and construction is expected to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River by 55% volume and 63% in events. Anything less than <95% volume reduction and discharge events is inadequate as a final solution to the St. Lucie River, its estuary and the southern Indian River Lagoon’s eventual recovery.  Retention of the Intercoastal Waterway [ICW] can be accommodated. 


The situation for Florida’s west coast is different as Lake Okeechobee is the Caloosahatchee River’s headwaters whereas the lake’s connection to the St. Lucie River is man-made. The Caloosahatchee needs 0.72 MAF/yr. [million-acre feet] [234 billion gallons] of clean lake water to maintain the fresh water/estuarine balance conditions while the St. Lucie River requires 0 MAF/yr. There is nothing in CERP or additional plans to clean-up lake Okeechobee, yet the principal initially addressed the legacy sediment issue in 1985.


The USACE and SFWMD, aware of insufficiencies, have proposed several large additional water storage/ treatment projects such as Aquifer Storage and Recovery [ ASR’s] that would temporarily reduce the lake discharges by ~ 25% additional or some fraction of 0.46 MAF [150 billion gallons] to achieve ~ 75% volume reduction to the St. Lucie River. The fraction variable is the Caloosahatchee/St. Lucie volume split to achieve both the 0.72 MAF/ 0 MAF ratio.  ASR storage volume eventually will enter into Lake Okeechobee to both acerbate potential future discharges but provide essential relief in droughts. Gilio Environmental believes that proposed 80 ASR’s, if built should be kept in reserve capacity, not an integral part of Everglades restoration. Also, SFWMD is considering 2 deep injection wells [ DWI’s] to further reduce Kissimmee River input into Lake Okeechobee. The DWI concept is permanent loss of potentially valuable water needs both downstream and at later dates. Also, DWI could create a Pandora’s box of hydrogeological impacts creating problems greater than the reduction benefits in volume or event discharges.


Gilio Environmental solutions to reducing remainder discharges to < 95% to the St. Lucie River and restore water qualityand higher ecological quality to both Lake Okeechobeeand the various water treatment vegetative constructs are mainly through the use of cost effective soft engineering projects: restore more of Kissimmee River oxbow wetlands, increase water quality treatment acreage for Component G, remove legacy phosphorus from Lake Okeechobee’s sediment and create more marshes and underwater grass meadows in the lake to trap incoming phosphorus.


To increase southern reservoir filtration acreage, Gilio Environmental prefers using the State of Florida owned Holey Land and Rotenberger land trusts. Inclusion of the Holey Land would increase the southern reservoirs filtration south volume by ~ 25%, or ~ 75% total volume reduction in lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie River. Adding the Rotenberger tract’s 25,000 acres is less direct as ~ 4,000 acres of private lands must be accommodated. Assuming accommodation, Rotenberger would further increase the filtration by increasing flow south by ~ 20% or ~ 95% total stoppage of Lake Okeechobee’s discharge to the St. Lucie River. These lands terraformed into FTM as shallow sided marshes, tree islands and sloughs rather than steep sided Stormwater Treatment Areas [STA’s] would restore the original habitat for endangered Everglades kite and seaside sparrow. Also, increases in total wildlife values through restored wetland acreages as FTM’s rather than STA’s further increases public and economic benefits such as: bass fishing, seasonal duck hunting, birding, wildlife vista, guides, motel accommodations and local jobs for plantings and maintaining the FTM’s.