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Opening of C-44 reservoir celebrated

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area in Martin County on Nov. 19, 2021
Posted at 9:55 AM, Nov 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-21 09:55:34-05

A milestone moment as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the C-44 canal reservoir Friday. The reservoir will be used to clean water coming from the C-44 before it enters the Indian River Lagoon. Once completely full, the reservoir will hold more than 30,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

“We’re going to see immediate benefits,” Mark Perry said. “What they'll do is uptake that water instead of having it fill up that canal and have to discharge it to the estuary. It'll take it into the reservoir, then be able to store it for a longer period of time. And then slowly treat that water and allow it to slowly go back into the canal.”

Mark Perry, the Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, discusses the C-44 project

Perry, the Executive Director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, told WPTV’s Michael Williams that while this project is 20 years in the making it is a step in the right direction.

“It's really going to be beneficial to the St. Lucie Estuary. This is part of the component, along with the C-23/24 Reservoir project. The C-44 project, these are two out of the 68 components of the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan. This is one that's finally being done and you're finally going to turn on the actual pump, which is exciting,” Perry said.

Eve Samples, Executive Director of Friends of the Everglades, discusses the C-44 project

While this project is one piece of the puzzle, clean-water advocates say it won’t stop harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

“It won't solve the big problem, however, because it does not treat Lake Okeechobee discharges. That's a whole other issue that we're continuing to work on,” Eve Samples, Executive Director of Friends of the Everglades told Williams.

This past week, the Army Corp announced the new Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual (LOSOM). The announced plan reduces discharges to the east by about 35%, far below the hope of a decrease of 60 to 70%.

“Lake Okeechobee is essentially managed as a reservoir for the EA, the Everglades agricultural area south of the lake,” Samples said. “Until that changes, we're never going to see those zero discharges to the St. Lucie. And it's absolutely true that the St. Lucie River never needs a drop of lake water. This is an artificial and harmful connection.”

Perry said there is a bit of good news with the new release schedule. He said it appears the Army Corps is taking into consideration the algae blooms that form in Lake Okeechobee.

“From a health standpoint, it's important that we push that across,” Perry said. “From an environmental standpoint, obviously, if we can get the water right, and get the balance in the estuaries right, the official comeback of habitats, we'll come back, we'll restore the seagrass and oyster reefs, and it'll be a thriving estuary again.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers and the Water Management District are listening in a way we haven't seen them listen before,” Samples said.

As for the C-44 reservoir, it is expected to be filled over the next few weeks.

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