CERP Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (C)

May 2024


Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project

Planning (P)
Congressional Districts: 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28


Published in 1998, the Central and Southern Florida Comprehensive Review Study Final Integrated Feasibility Report and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (the “Yellow Book”) provides the blueprint for how water quantity, quality, timing, and distribution challenges in the south Florida ecosystem are to be addressed. The Yellow Book organizes the work to be conducted into 68 components. As scoped, three of those components associated with water storage north of Lake Okeechobee are included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP):

  • Component A: North of Lake Okeechobee Storage Reservoir.
  • Component GG: Lake Okeechobee Aquifer Storage and Recovery.
  • Component OPE: Wetland Restoration (Lake Okeechobee Watershed Water Quality Treatment Facilities).


Estimated Total Cost $9,757,000
Estimated Federal Cost $6,753,000
Allocation thru FY23 $5,589,000
Allocation for FY24 $0
President’s Budget FY25                 $0



South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406


a. Planning on the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LWORP) was initiated in the early 2000s but halted in 2006. The project was re-scoped under the USACE SMART (3x3) planning paradigm with a new set of alternatives to be analyzed.

b. A waiver to the SMART (3X3) rule increasing the budget of the effort from $3M to 3.7M was approved in 2013. The Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) developed in 2018 included four components: a 5,000-acre reservoir with a storage capacity of approximately 50,000 acre-feet, a 2,600-acre water quality treatment facility in Highlands County, a 17,500-acre reservoir with a total storage capacity of 200,000 acre-feet (aka Water Attenuation Feature [WAF]), and a series of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells adjacent to Lake Okeechobee.

c. A draft Project Implementation Report/Environmental Impact Statement (PIR/ EIS) package was released for review in July 2018. The draft PIR/EIS package was submitted for review in 2019. The scope of the project in the draft included 80 ASR wells, the WAF and the two wetland restoration areas. A second exemption to the SMART (3X3) rule was approved in 2019, increasing the duration of the study from 36 to 46 months and the budget by $800K.

d. A revised final PIR/EIS was published, and a Chief’s Report was released for State & Agency review in 2020. The revised PIR/EIS was submitted to South Atlantic Division (SAD) and USACE Headquarters (HQ USACE). The draft was not approved by HQ USACE due in part to concerns raised by the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF). Consistent with HQ USACE direction, the Water Attenuation Feature (WAF) was removed from the TSP, and the number of ASR wells was not to exceed 55, with those ASR wells to be divided between 10 well clusters. The PIR/EIS was revised and submitted to SAD) for review in 2021. The PIR/EIS with the reformulated scope was provided to HQ USACE, and concurrence was provided. A third exemption to the SMART (3X3) rule was approved in 2021, increasing the duration of the study by 13 months and providing an additional $1.17M.

e. In 2022 a recertified cost estimate from the Military Center of Expertise (MCX) was received. The total estimated cost for the project was significantly higher than the previous MCX cost estimate. A revised PIR/EIS was released for comment and a final revised PIR/EIS was prepared and posted to the Federal Register in late 2022. After the PIR/EIS was published in the Federal Register, a draft Chief’s Report was transmitted to SAD and HQ USACE. The draft report was not concurred with by HQ USACE due to concerns with risks posed by the ASR system and the increase in estimated costs. A fourth exemption to the SMART (3X3) rule was submitted or concurrence in July 2022. It was concurred with by SAD and transmitted to HQ USACE for approval. HQ USACE did not approve the exception request.

f. HQ USACE directed the draft Chief’s Report not to be released for review, and directed the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) be reconfigured to include:

  • Component OPE - Wetland Restoration: Direction is to retain existing wetland area recommendations.
  • CERP Component A - North of Lake Okeechobee Storage Reservoir: Direction is to reformulate and incorporate above-ground storage features to include previously screened out alternatives and to evaluate other alternatives (CERP Component A - North of Lake Okeechobee Storage Reservoir).
  • CERP Component GG - Lake Okeechobee Aquifer Storage and Recovery: Direction is to identify and investigate the feasibility of measures to quantify and mitigate potential health and environmental risks posed by ASR wells. Effort to specifically focus on determining uncertainties related to (1) well recovery performance, (2) water quality, (3) construction cost, and (4) O&M costs. HQ USACE directed work on evaluating the feasibility of ASR systems was to be performed by the USACE Engineering Research and Design Center (ERDC). South Atlantic Division (SAD) was instructed to lead coordination on this effort with ERDC.

g. The budget was increased by $50K to allow for work on a revision to the fourth exemption to the SMART (3X3) rule. That work is currently underway.  

h. In February 2023, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) communicated their intent to take the lead on the reformulation of aboveground storage features under the provisions of Section 203. With this development, the scope of work to be performed by Jacksonville District on this project is constrained to validating existing wetland area recommendations.  

i. The draft PIR/EIS it will be released for review, comments will be addressed, it will be posted to the Federal Register, and a Record of Decision (ROD) will be executed. A Revised Chief’s Report will be prepared. The Chief’s report will be sent to Congress to support the incorporation of this project in a Water Resource Development Act (WRDA). The goal is to have the two wetland areas authorized in the 2024 Water Resourced and Development Act (WRDA 2024), and the other components authorized in the 2026.  


click for full-size map of LOWRP project area