Greg Lovett

FL - It's Official: $175.8 Million Deal Approved to Finish Treatment Area South of Lake O

South Florida Water Management District governing board members approved a substantial $175.8 million contract Thursday to finish their part of a fast-tracked reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee that is expected to reduce harmful discharges to northern estuaries.

The unanimous vote dedicates the money to finish a 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area in western Palm Beach County to filter nutrients from lake water before it goes south to the Everglades.

It is part of an ambitious $1.6 billion project that includes the treatment area and a 10,500-acre reservoir, also in Palm Beach County, that should mitigate the amount of algae-tainted water that is dumped in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries when Lake Okeechobee is too full.

Tennessee-based Phillips & Jordan, Inc. won the contract in a competitive bidding process. The company, founded in 1952, has offices in the Carolinas, California, Colorado and San Antonio, Fla., a small town northeast of Tampa. It has experience building dams, levees, reservoirs and rehabilitating aging water systems, according to its website.

The contract gives a wider berth than normal for unexpected expenses, allowing for up to $2 million in additional funding without board approval. A $5 million bonus is also on the table if the project is finished by Sept. 21, 2023.

The only comment on the contract was from board member Ron Bergeron, a developer and conservationist, who vouched for the experience of Phillips & Jordan.

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