Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Waves crashing on the algae covered rocks in the Indian River Lagoon.
After more than a decade of hard work and a few setbacks, a large restoration project in South Florida has been completed.
“I wish I knew then just how important this project would be to HDR, my career and our clients,” said Katie Duty, the water manager for HDR, the company tasked with completing this endeavor.
HDR, which specializes in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services, won the contract for the restoration project in 2004 “I’d been working as an engineer for a little over a year, and we just learned that we’d been selected to design a large Everglades restoration project,” Duty said. “There were a lot of excited people around me, and it sounded like a cool project to be part of, so I was eager to jump in.”
The C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area Project is in Martin County along the St. Lucie River connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary.
The main goal is to slow freshwater flows to the estuary. The pollution from Lake Okeechobee, along with the runoff from cities and agricultural areas, runs into the estuary which eventually feeds into the Indian River Lagoon. The C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area provides a 6,300-acre stormwater treatment area, with a 3,400-acre, 15-foot-deep reservoir to filter pollutants before reaching the estuary.
The efforts for this 12,000-acre area entailed collecting large amounts of data related to topography, soil, existing conditions, animals and plant life.
Although the work began in 2005, obstacles delayed progress.
After the design analysis was finished, Duty assisted in developing the construction documents, which included over 1,200 drawings and thousands of pages of details.
But the 2008 recession it right before the documents were advertised, and the project was put on hold for two years.
After that delay, a new plan was formulated. The site was divided into smaller construction contracts overseen by the state of Florida and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers retained HDR to develop construction documents for its areas. Duty’s responsibilities kept getting larger as she climbed the ranks to become the principal in charge of day-to-day operations. “At some point I realized that the C-44 project and I were intrinsically tied together. Its success would be mine and vice versa,” Duty said.
The major features of the project now are complete, Duty said, including a reservoir with approximately a 10-mile embankment, a pump station that can lift a huge swimming pool’s worth of water into the reservoir every 80 seconds, 6,300 acres of wetlands, and about 115 structures and 50 miles of canals that control the water movement. Duty said she is working with the state and the Corps of Engineers to determine where such work will be needed next.