South Fla. Management District Highlights 2007 Accomplishments

Faced with one of the most severe droughts in the region’s history, 2007 brought both challenges and opportunities to the South Florida Water Management District. In addition to managing a severe water shortage through a lingering drought, the agency achieved a number of significant accomplishments in 2007, adding up to a remarkable year.

Charged with the restoring natural environments including the Everglades, protecting communities from extremes like drought and flood, ensuring water supply for future generations, and safeguarding water quality for wildlife and people, the South Florida Water Management District did not let a drought dampen its success in 2007.

With a budget of $1.4 billion, 1,770 employees and a 16-county jurisdiction stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys, the South Florida Water Management District reports a long list of accomplishments for a banner year.

Drought/Water Shortage Management
· Established an emergency response Incident Command with more than 20 drought management teams. Implemented progressive actions as the water shortage intensified, tightening agricultural and urban water use restrictions while promoting conservation.

· Conducted extensive utility and drainage district coordination.

· Encouraged strong cooperation with local government in enforcing residential water restrictions. More than 11,000 warnings and 12,000 citations were issued.

· Increased District enforcement of permitted water users with more than 700 violation notices issued, resulting in more than $400,000 in civil penalties.

· Through a dedicated water shortage hotline, fielded more than 23,000 telephone calls. Also responded to more than 2,000 water shortage email inquiries.

· Distributed more than 5 million copies of printed information, received more than 150,000 monthly web site visits and reached more than 60,000 people through speaking engagements, events and community meetings.

Everglades Restoration
· Received The Bond Buyer’s “Deal of the Year” award as the nation's most innovative municipal bond issuer for the District’s $546.1-million issue of certificates of participation (COPs) to fund accelerated Everglades restoration projects. The District’s COPs were the first ever to be issued for a natural resources project in the United States.

· Completed Acme Basin B Discharge Project C-1 canal improvements and pump station. Part of the Acceler8 Everglades restoration Water Preserve Area project, the Acme Basin B Discharge Project improves Everglades water quality by diverting urban stormwater run off into the C-51 canal and then back into a stormwater treatment area before release into the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

· Completed to-date the restoration of 13,000 acres as part of the Picayune Strand Restoration project. This Acceler8 project involves the restoration of natural water flow across 85 square miles in western Collier County, drained in the early 1960s.

· Continued construction on the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir, a massive above-ground storage facility south of Lake Okeechobee designed to capture and store regulatory releases from Lake Okeechobee and local runoff. The additional storage will help reduce the number and volume of harmful lake discharges to the coastal estuaries. When complete, it will have a storage capacity of 190,000 acre-feet, or 62 billion gallons.

· Completed designs for the C-43 (Caloosahatchee) reservoir and C-44 (St. Lucie) reservoir/stormwater treatment area.

· Acquired 7,331 acres of land at an investment of $84.7 million. Acquired 775 additional acres through no-cost land exchanges.

Improving Everglades Water Quality
· Completed 6,000 acres of stormwater treatment area expansions. In total, 52,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee have now been converted to stormwater treatment areas, yielding 45,000 acres of effective treatment marsh. In the constructed wetlands, aquatic plants take up excess phosphorus found in the stormwater runoff. This natural process cleanses the water before it flows into the Everglades.

· Rehabilitated Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West, located in western Palm Beach County, which had been damaged by hurricane-driven winds. Removed sediment buildup and planted rice to help stabilize soil for healthy vegetation re-growth and better phosphorus uptake performance.

· Measured a continuing drop in total phosphorus concentrations entering the Everglades in 2007. Stormwater treatment areas reduced the amount of phosphorus flowing out of the treatment areas by 71 percent.

· Prevented to-date more than 2,600 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades through the continuing use of urban and farming best management practices and stormwater treatment areas. This equates to 143 20-ton truckloads or 572,000 10-pound bags of fertilizer.

Restoring the Health of Lake Okeechobee
· Governor Charlie Crist signed into law the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, officially recognizing the interconnectivity of the ecosystem and underscoring the need to focus on the northernmost components. Released the draft Lake Okeechobee Watershed Construction Project Phase II Technical Plan outlining the steps needed to reduce pollution and provide additional storage to improve the health of the system north of the lake.

· Scraped and removed two million cubic yards of muck from 3,000 acres of Lake Okeechobee’s drought-exposed lake bed. This action removed 140 metric tons of phosphorus.

· Burned 70,000 acres and treated 10,000 acres of torpedo grass to improve Lake Okeechobee ecology; planted more than 2,000 native pond apple trees to re-establish Lake Okeechobee habitat.

· Documented substantial improvements in water quality and water clarity in Lake Okeechobee over the past two years, aided by two relatively inactive hurricane seasons and, subsequently, low phosphorus inflows to the 730-square-mile lake. Just one year ago, less than 3,000 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation dotted the lake bottom; SFWMD scientists recently documented the recovery of submerged aquatic vegetation across more than 30,000 acres.

Protecting Coastal Watersheds
· Provided funding support for more than 40 local habitat restoration and water quality improvement projects totaling $45 million in investments, including St. Lucie Estuary, Indian River Lagoon and Loxahatchee River initiatives.

· Completed the Naples Bay Surface Water Improvement and Management Plan to improve stormwater runoff quality.

· Partnered with the local water control district to complete the Harns Marsh sediment removal and vegetation planting project located at the headwaters of the Orange River, a tributary to the Caloosahatchee River.

· Continued to assist with water quality clean up and flood mitigation dredging in the Miami River.

Restoring the Kissimmee River and Basin
· Completed the draft scientific and technical basis for the Kissimmee Chain-of-Lakes Long-Term Management plan.

· Developed and calibrated the operational model of the Kissimmee watershed.

· The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers backfilled two additional miles of channelized Kissimmee canal, totaling 9.5 miles backfilled to date. This phase of the project reconnected four additional miles of historic river channel and allows for the re-inundation of an additional 500 acres of floodplain.

Meeting and Balancing Water Supply Demands
· Supported 52 alternative water supply projects through the District’s Alternative Water Supply grant program, creating 35 million gallons of new water per day.

· Provided $400,000 in grants to support 17 local water conservation retrofit projects through the District’s Water Savings Incentive Program (Water SIP). These projects will result in water savings of 311 million gallons per year.

· Adopted the first-of-its-kind Regional Water Availability Rule. Utilities can no longer expect to meet future demands by tapping the Everglades or Loxahatchee River and must pursue alternative sources.

· Continued implementing an aggressive water use permit renewal schedule.

· Issued a 20-year permit to Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department structured to increase reliance on alternative water supply sources to serve the county’s projected growth.

· Completed and began utilizing the South Florida Regional Simulation Model, an important tool designed to predict the effects of physical and operational decisions on water management activities.

Refurbishing the Central & Southern Florida Project
· Conducted around-the-clock monitoring, operation and maintenance of 1,900+ miles of canals and levees, and hundreds of water control structures across central and southern Florida. Keeping this system at peak operating levels is crucial for meeting regional flood protection needs.

· Completed 41 capital projects, including structure repair and refurbishing, canal dredging, bank erosion repair and hurricane hardening.

Commitment to open government and public involvement
· The District’s Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) hosted thefirst-ever “Water Summit” to explore short-term water management challenges. This public forum had a particular focus on the constraints and limits regarding Lake Okeechobee operations and water levels.

· The WRAC also convened a public “Water Conservation Summit” and continuing stakeholder input process to develop a comprehensive and enduring water conservation program for the region.

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