Florida Expands Wetlands To Improve Everglades Water Quality
Florida officials last month broke ground on expansions of three treatment wetlands to improve water quality in the Everglades.
The expansions are expected to increase the capacity to treat phosphorus-laden runoff from agricultural operations entering the Everglades to more than half a million acre-feet of water a year.
As part of the state’s Acceler8 initiative, Florida is expanding Stormwater Treatment Area 2 (STA-2) in Palm Beach County along with STA-5 and STA-6, located in Hendry County. These expansions will add 6,000 acres to the states 36,000 acres of treatment wetlands, helping to achieve state water quality standards.
State Representative Richard Machek and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Colleen Castille joined local officials, water managers and environmental scientists to break ground on the three projects.
These and other expansions will prevent an additional 45 metric tons per year of phosphorus from entering the Everglades, state officials said.
“Accelerating critical restoration projects like the expansions of constructed wetlands will provide immediate environmental, social and economic benefits,” Secretary Castille said. “Breaking ground on these important Acceler8 projects demonstrates Floridas steadfast commitment to full and complete restoration.”
“This project represents our strong commitment to improving water quality in the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Carol Wehle.”Additional projects will improve water quantity, timing and distribution, and together they will help us achieve restoration success.”
Although phosphorus is a nutrient essential to living creatures, excess amounts can harm the Everglades ecosystem. Constructed wetlands work by accumulating phosphorus in their sediments.
Last year, the treatment wetlands prevented more than 189 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades. Together with improved farming practices, construction wetlands have prevented 2,178 tons of phosphorus from enter the Everglades, cutting phosphorus loads to the giant marsh last year by 71 percent.
Completion of these expanded wetlands is scheduled for the end of 2006. Further expansions and new construction will eventually provide an additional 20,000 acres of treatment wetlands. All constructed wetland projects are scheduled to be operational by 2010.
Announced by Governor Jeb Bush in October 2004, Acceler8 is stepping up the pace of funding, design and construction to complete eight critical Everglades restoration projects over seven years.
The projects will restore 100,000 acres of wetlands, expand water treatment areas by close to 29,000 acres and provide 418,000 acre-feet of additional water storage for Everglades restoration a decade ahead of schedule.
During the Jeb Bush administration, Florida has forged a 50-50 State-federal partnership to implement the $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and has invested $1.3 billion and committed an additional $3 billion through the end of the decade to clean up and restore the famed River of Grass. Provided by the Environmental News Service.