(News-Press.com) - Gov. Rick Scott will visit Fort Myers today to announce a $90 million project to further hydrate the Everglades - and help lessen water woes plaguing Southwest Florida.
The project will construct a 2.5-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. A similar 1-mile bridge opened in March on the same 10-mile stretch. The bridges replace the existing roadway, which has blocked the flow of water to the southern Everglades from Lake Okeechobee since its construction in 1928.
Instead, the lake's discharges have been sent down the Caloosahatchee River and other waterways. The releases have long been a point of concern, especially this year as the frequency of the releases has discolored the water, created algae blooms, harmed marine life, and, according to some business owners, hurt tourism.
Drawn up in 2010, the $310 million project is funded through the Florida Department of Transportation and matched by a grant from the Department of the Interior.
"Today, the Tamiami Trail acts to block water from naturally flowing south. The result is more water backs up, which forces more storm runoff to drain from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, instead of flowing South through the Everglades," Scott said in an email.
"By constructing an additional bridge, more water will be able to flow naturally through the Everglades. This will keep nutrient rich water out of the estuaries. Constructing the Tamiami Trail Bridge is crucial to the long term health of the region and a critical project identified in the Central Everglades Planning Process."
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board voted unanimously Aug. 15 on the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will "identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay while protecting coastal estuaries."
When the project is completed - no time frame was available - an annual average of 210,000 acre-feet of water will be redirected south, according to the SFWMD.
A total of 6.5 miles of Tamiami Trail have been identified as available for bridging.
Scott will discuss his plans at 10 a.m. at Centennial Park. Among his guests will be Senate Majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; and state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers.