The study area for project is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) boundary plus the study area for the Indian River Lagoon North Feasibility Study (IRLN). The IRLN project is within the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) boundary.
The CERP includes a number of construction features, such as stormwater treatment areas, specifically designed to improve water quality conditions for the purpose of south Florida ecosystem restoration. Further, the plan includes other construction features, such as water storage reservoirs that could be designed to maximize water quality benefits to downstream water bodies. Optimizing the design and operation of construction features of the recommended plan to achieve water quality restoration targets is essential for achieving overall ecosystem restoration goals for south Florida.
Degradation of water quality throughout the study area is extensive, particularly in agricultural and urban coastal areas. The DEP listed approximately 160 use-impaired water bodies in south Florida in its 1998 Section 303(d) list. Although there are several ongoing water quality restoration programs in the study area (e.g. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) point and non-point source regulatory programs, total maximum daily loads (TMDL's) development and remediation programs, Surface Water Improvement and Management planning efforts), there is no comprehensive plan for achieving water quality restoration in south Florida which links together water quality restoration programs in the context of comprehensive planning for ecosystem restoration. It is also recognized that achieving all of the water quality goals for ecosystem restoration in all use-impaired water bodies within the study area will depend on actions outside the scope of the CERP.
The SFWMD, DEP, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies have developed or are developing water quality improvement programs for several of the impaired water bodies within the study area. The most notable example is the Everglades Forever Act, which focuses on achieving adequate water quality in the Everglades. Other examples include the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act planning efforts for the Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, and Biscayne Bay, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program. However, the degree to which some of the existing water quality improvement programs have been implemented has been limited.