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Firm Strives to Protect Everglades From the Dry Season

The contract encompasses the installation of 2.1 million cu. yds. of fill to construct 21 mi. of levee.

Tue April 01, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is currently overseeing a project in the Central Florida Everglades involving the construction of a 15,000-acre flow equalization basin. It is designed to capture and store peak storm water flows during the wet season or heavy rainfall events.

The contract encompasses the installation of 2.1 million cu. yds. (1.6 million cu m) of fill to construct 21 mi. (33.8 km) of levee, degrading 3.1 million cu. yds. (2.3 million cu. m) of muck, backfilling 113 mi. (181.8 km) of agricultural canals, and construction of 14 gated water control structures.

The general contractor is Central Florida Equipment of Medley, Fla., for an amount of $59.9 million. Work began in Dec. 2013 and is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

Richard Baer, president of operations of Central Florida Equipment, explained that the levees would be used to control the flow of water.

"In the wet season, there is an area where they treat the run-off from the sugar fields because it has a lot of phosphorus in it," Baer said. "It works fine in the summer when there is plenty of water and it is flowing. In the winter, it dries out and everything dies. You have algae blooms, lose oxygen and everything starts to die. So what this system will do is in the summer when there is plenty of rain, they will store it, but in the dry season they will release the water to keep it flowing. It is a flow equalization system. It will keep the flow going in the dry season, and keep the system from drying."

The water will be stored on 15,000 acres, and then released in the winter.

Baer said that the project involves digging several thousand ft. of canals and building gated concrete structures.

"There is 10 to 12,000 yards of concrete to pour, so we will build a batch plant on site," Baer said. "In the middle of the site, the last contractor who worked on this site had a quarry set up, so there is a supply of good material that has already been washed and sized. We will just have to buy the plant and cement, and will be able to make the concrete on site, which is a real advantage since the site is in the middle of nowhere [about 10 miles south of Belle Glade, Fla.]."

According to Baer, a milling machine will be used on the site to "degrade" the roads that were put in when the area was sugar cane fields. It will be used in two ways: to load the trucks or to windrow the material for hauling later. In addition, it will size the material, which will be used to build the levees.

The 3 million cu. yds. (2.3 million cu m) of muck, which had been pushed up previously, will be spread back out using pull pans.

Kelly Tractor Company played a major part in mobilizing equipment for this job. They supplied 16 Cat 740 trucks, four Cat CS54 compactors and two Cat D6N tractors.

"We chose Kelly Tractor to supply a majority of the Cat equipment for this project based on competitive pricing, support from their service department, and parts availability," Baer said.

Mobilization was very short because of the amount of work Central Florida Equipment wanted to get done during the dry season. During the rainy season, much of the Everglades are under water.

About Central Florida Equipment

Baer’s father, Jim Baer, founded Central Florida Equipment in 1977. He started with equipment rental work with a loader backhoe he ran himself. Richard Baer joined the company when he got out of high school in 1980. In 1982, his brother Bob, who is the current president, joined the company as well.

Headquartered in Medley, Fla., the business employs 200 people. They concentrate on infrastructure, highway work, building foundations and excavation work. For more information visit

About Kelly Tractor Company

Kelly Tractor Co, the authorized Caterpillar dealer for south Florida, has been serving the construction market since 1933. For more information, visit

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