Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
Part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) is a planning effort being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The project area covers a large portion of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed north of the lake.
- Increasing water storage capacity in the watershed, resulting in improved Lake Okeechobee water levels
- Improving the quantity and timing of discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries
- Restoring wetlands
- Improving water supply for existing legal users
The LOWRP Recommended Plan (Alternative 1BWR) consists of the following components:
- Aboveground Storage - Wetland Attenuation Feature (WAF), providing approximately 46,000 ac-ft of shallow storage
- Underground Storage - 80 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells located in clusters
- 55 wells located throughout the watershed
- 25 wells co-located with the WAF
- Wetland Restoration of approximately 4,800 acres
- Paradise Run ~ 3,600 acres
- Kissimmee River-Center ~ 1,200 acres
Recommended Plan Benefits
- Increases the amount of time Lake Okeechobee is within the ecologically preferred stage envelope
- Reduces flows to the Caloosahatchee Estuary by an additional 36% and to the St. Lucie Estuary by an additional 17%
- Reduces water supply cutback volume to the Lake Okeechobee Service Area by 24%
- Restores approximately 4,800 acres of wetlands along portions of the historic Kissimmee River floodplain
- Provides public recreational features in the WAF and wetland sites
LOWRP Planning Timeline
- Project scoping began – July 2016
- Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement (PIR/EIS) released – July 2018
- Revised Draft PIR/EIS released – July 2019
- Final Integrated PIR/EIS released – August 2020
- Chief’s Report – Pending; anticipated in 2022
The LOWRP Final PIR/EIS is available on USACE website.
LOWRP Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Well Program
In 2019 and 2020, the Florida Legislature appropriated $100 million to the SFWMD for the design, engineering and construction of specific LOWRP components designed to achieve the greatest reduction in harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. The SFWMD and USACE determined the ASR well component would provide the greatest benefits to the estuaries.
As the SFWMD moves forward in a phased approach for the design and construction of ASR wells, there are remaining scientific uncertainties and stakeholder concerns regarding regional implementation of the technology. To address these uncertainties and concerns, SFWMD formed an ASR Peer Review Panel of expert Florida scientists to review the ASR Well program and 2021 ASR Science Plan, and provide recommendations on its regional implementation in south Florida. Learn more about the ASR Well Program and the 2021 ASR Science Plan.
Florida Senate 2021, Bill No. 2516
Senate Bill 2516, approved by the Florida legislature and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in June 2021, provides funding and direction to the SFWMD to expedite the planning, design, and construction of the LOWRP, a component of the CERP as approved by the U.S. Congress in 2000. $50 million will be appropriated annually from 2021 through 2026 for LOWRP implementation. A progress report will be prepared annually, every November 1st, to include updates on congressional approval for the LOWRP PIR/EIS, ASR Science Plan, scientific investigations, and design, construction and operations of ASR wells and the wetland restoration sites.
- Letter from SFWMD to USACE – June 25, 2021
- Florida Senate Bill No. 2516 – April 28, 2021 (Approved June 2021)
- Letter from SFWMD to USACE – March 3, 2021
- Letter from USACE to SFWMD – Feb. 24, 2021
- Letter of Support to USACE – Feb. 4, 2020
- Letter to SFWMD: Pre-Partnership Credit Agreement – Aug. 28, 2019
- Letter to USACE: Pre-Partnership Credit Agreement – July 22, 2019