Today’s blog is a review of something we have been talking about for a long time now. Something that is in the news once again. The C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area and Reservoir, a component of the Indian River Lagoon South, CERP project.
Today we will break down this project into chucks so we can understand what is happening, and what has already happened, and clarify some terminology.
The term “C-44” can be confusing as C-44 is a canal but is applied to others things and used as a “nickname” for an entire, multi-layered project. First, the C-44 is a canal that was built from 1915 to 1923 by the flood control district of the era and later by the Army Corp of Engineers. This canal has dual purposes. It allows water from the C-44 basin to run into and be released into the North Fork of the St Lucie River, and it allows overflow water from Lake Okeechobee to be released into the North Fork of the St Lucie River. “All this water” plasters the bottom of the estuary with silt and pollution from surrounding lands, in this case mostly from agricultural runoff.
There are two structures along the C-44 canal that release the water: structure 308 (S-308) at Lake Okeechobee, “Port Mayaca,” and S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam in Tropical Farms.
Believe it or not, the canal can “run in both directions, dumping water to the lake or to the St Lucie. The ACOE is in charge and works together with the South Florida Water Management District to manage this canal that is part of Florida’s history for “water supply” of agriculture and “flood control” for agricultural lands that later became populated by people other than just farmers…..
So the “C-44 STA/R.,” as I will call it, has been in the works conceptually since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP that was agreed on by stakeholders in 2000. There are/were 68 project components of CERP, none are 100% complete. C-44 STA/R is part of “Indian River Lagoon South” a part of CERP that got a jump-start in 2007 and moved up on the list of 68.
Why haven’t all these projects been approved and funded? In the insane and fickle world of federal and state politics there is never a guarantee. So the ACOE and SFWMD live in a state of flux as do we, the public. This is why we must fight so hard, elect the right legislators, and “never give up.”
An overview of C-44 STA/R can be read about here:(https://www.martin.fl.us/web_docs/eng/web/EcoSystem_Restoration_and_Management/Water_Quality/Indian_River_Lagoon_South_Fact_Sheet.pdf)
Martin County and the public have done a great job supporting the SFWMD and advocating for the C-44 STA/R. As reporter, Tyler Treadway, stated in his recent Stuart News, article: “The C-44 project began in 2007 when the South Florida Water Management District spent $173 million and Martin County kicked in $27 million through a special 1-cent sales tax to buy and clear 12,000 acres for the facility.”
In 2011, after a couple a false starts the ACOE held a groundbreaking for the C-44 STA/R project. This was a happy day. I was mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point at the time and participated in the groundbreaking event. This was Contract 1 and there are many components to this contract, but the most visible one is the building of the INTAKE CANAL from C-44 canal into the interior of the lands where the STA and Reservoir are to be built.
You can read about this here: (https://www.army.mil/article/61750/Corps_Awards_Contract_for_Construction_of_C_44_Reservoir_and_Stormwater_Treatment_Area/)
As you can see from this breakdown the project below, C-44 STA/R has multiple “contracts.” This is why we keep hearing about it “again and again.” The chart below is very helpful in understanding a timeline of the contracts. Each is funded separately. For fun, I have also included some pictures of the 2011 groundbreaking event. You can see how many people involved are not “here” anymore….
OK so now fast forward to 2013. A year that rings like torture for those of us who lived here in Martin and St Lucie Counties during that time. It was the “Lost Summer” when the waters of Lake Okeechobee and C-44, C-23, C-24, and C-25 just about killed us and did kill our economy and the St Lucie River Southern Indian River Lagoon. It was during this time that Governor Rick Scott and the state legislature put 40 million towards “the C-44” to speed up construction of the STAs. This was wonderful cooperation between state and federal agencies. Entities that sometimes are at odds. This cooperation shined light on the agreed importance of improving water quality in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon system, a yes…it WAS an election year! 🙂
You can read about Gov. Scott here: (https://www.flgov.com/gov-scott-announces-40-million-commitment-to-speed-up-critical-water-treatment-project-2/)
There were also other local politicians that were very vocal and helpful during this 2013 time. Florida Senator Joe Negron; Congressional Representative Patrick Murphy, there were others too like Senator Bill Nelson; Senator Marco Rubio even visited- and others….the public though was what really shined as they rallied and advocated on behalf of the river.
Now we are hearing about C-44 STA/R in the news AGAIN. So what are they talking about now? They are talking about the next part of the “contract sequence,” or phase…this time to build the reservoir as seen in light blue below. This is where the water will be held before going to he STA to be cleaned before again being released into the canal and then the river….
Read about this next contract sequence that just came out in the news here: (https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Article/616981/corps-awards-indian-river-lagoon-south-construction-contract.aspx)
So what is all of this going to look like when it is done, and when might it be done? This chart shows the end date as 2020.
YouTube TMBA video/artist’s and engineering’s interpretation of final product:
So as you can see, the building and funding of the C-44 STA/Reservoir is not an event but rather a story. “Reaching the finish line” includes many chapters….Considering so many other Everglades Restoration projects are not even close to getting this kind of attention and funding is something we must appreciate and be proud and thankful for.
What we must also understand is this is just the beginning and will not alone fix our water problems. In a bad year maybe 1.5 to 2 million acre feet— (one foot of water on one acre of land) ——-of water goes into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River alone. This amount of water is basically unfathomable. Picture all the water that used to be on the lands of central Florida each wet season before we drained them and straightened the Kissimmee River….not to mention “Disney”….
And since the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee blocks the flow of water south to the Everglades this water is redirected to the St Lucie River/IRL and to the Calooshahatchee. The C-44 STA/R is meant to clean water from the C-44 basin alone, and maybe some from Lake O. A reservoir of 50,600 acre feet will help but not offset releases from Lake Okeechobee. Only an outlet south of the lake, and more storage can do that. So in essences our race has just begun…
Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.
Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County. She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.
Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013, she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public about Everglades restoration. Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV. The institute focuses on teaching leaders how to facilitate participatory decision making in the most controversial of situations.