SFWMD Governing Board Approves Brighton Valley Northern Everglades Public-Private Partnership to Improve Quality of Water Flowing to Lake Okeechobee
New public-private partnership, one of several projects on public and privately-owned land in South Florida's Dispersed Water Management program, will keep thousands of acre-feet of stormwater runoff out of the northern estuaries
|Click on the map to see a larger version showing the location of the Brighton Valley Project approved by the SFWMD Governing Board today.
West Palm Beach, FL - The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) on Thursday approved a public-private partnership with the Lykes Brighton Valley LLC that will create the Brighton Valley Northern Everglades Public-Private Partnership Project. This project will treat water in the Lake Okeechobee watershed over the next decade.
"Every gallon stored counts in situations like the current high water emergency South Florida is facing,"
said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez. "This Governing Board is thankful to Lykes Brighton Valley for stepping up and helping reduce nutrients in the Lake Okeechobee watershed."
The Brighton Valley Project will create flow, averaging 40,000 acre-feet of water per year, through approximately 8,200 acres of privately-owned land in Highlands County. That water will be taken from the C-41A Canal during excess water conditions and conveyed across the project's land in order to reduce nutrients in the water.
The SFWMD Governing Board approved an 11-year lease and agreement for the Brighton Valley Project that includes $11.5 million for land improvements necessary to make the project feasible in the first year. Once the improvements are in place, the District will pay the Brighton Valley Project an annual fixed fee, which averages to a cost effectiveness of about $95 per acre-foot of water treated on the site for the next 10 years.
The Brighton Valley project includes flow-through cells that will help remove nutrients such as phosphorus from the water before it is discharged to the C-40 Canal. The project is expected to remove 3.2 tons of phosphorus and 27.3 tons of nitrogen from the water.
The funding for the project comes from a 2016 appropriation by the Florida Legislature specifically for public-private partnerships to benefit the Northern Everglades. Future Legislative funding will be necessary to continue this project.
Brighton Valley is the second large-scale public-private partnership on agricultural lands approved by the SFWMD's Governing Board that utilizes that 2016 Legislative appropriation. In Martin County, the Caulkins Water Farm on 3,200 acres of former citrus groves near Indiantown is already operating and has stored more than 12,000 acre-feet of water during the recent high water emergency, keeping that water from entering the St. Lucie Estuary.
"The state is doing its part to finish major restoration projects that will protect the estuaries long-term," Fernandez said. "Private landowners are giving us the flexibility needed to store and treat water in the short-term, while helping to reduce the damaging discharges to the estuaries. This flexibility, combined with all the other critical efforts this District is undertaking, can help to mitigate the current high water emergency situation."
For years, SFWMD has utilized its Dispersed Water Management program to store and treat water on public lands and partnered with private landowners to do the same. Since record rainfall started in May, causing Lake Okeechobee to rise more than a foot in a matter of weeks, SFWMD has taken advantage of all available capacity to store or move water in an effort to protect the estuaries.
These existing Dispersed Water Management projects provide an approximate total of 54,000 acre-feet of additional storage.