The $105 million project is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which sets out a long-term plan for restoring, protecting and preserving the water resources of Central and Southern Florida. The storm water treatment area includes 32 miles of berms, 30 miles of canals and 63 structures.
For the current phase of the C-44 project, WSP is serving as construction manager on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Blue Goose Construction is handling the construction. WSP supports the SFWMD by ensuring the stormwater treatment area is constructed according to the design documents so that it meets established water quality goals. (See a video from Martin County explaining the project and its benefits.)
The project diverts water from the C-44 canal, which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River, through an intake canal to a pump station, and from there the water is pumped into a reservoir. The water then moves through a series of storm water treatment areas to remove nutrients like phosphorus from the water, with cleaner water then returned to the C-44 canal.
“As the water enters the six STA cells, it comes to a standstill to allow those pollutants to settle to the bottom of the cell,” Dominguez said. “These STA cells contain natural vegetation that depend upon these nutrients to grow, which will remove them from the reservoir.”
The STA basin is also designed to capture large amounts of runoff during storms to keep it from reaching the estuary, which will see less water, and cleaner water.
The project is designed to capture 65 percent of the average annual storm water runoff in the C-44 basin. With an average water depth of 15 feet covering 3,400 acres of land, the reservoir will be able to hold 16 billion gallons of water. The pumping station will be capable of pumping water in and out of the reservoir at a rate of 1,100 cubic feet per second, or about 717 million gallons per day.
“The C44 has three project components, a reservoir built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a pump station, and the STA, which is the largest component,” Dominguez said. “The STA covers a total of 6,300 acres with emergent vegetation.”
After the process is completed, the water is returned to the canal to complete its journey to the Everglades.
“What we are creating is an entire ecosystem,” Dominguez said. “It is very much an outside-the-box project, and the size is simply amazing. You can’t even see from the north side of the project to the south side.”