The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District (USACE) announces a 30-day public NEPA scoping comment period for the North of Lake Okeechobee Storage Reservoir Section 203 Study, also known as the Lake Okeechobee Component A Storage Reservoir (LOCAR) Section 203 Study being conducted by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Comments are due Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
USACE Jacksonville District is beginning preparation of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document for the LOCAR Section 203 Study being conducted by the non-federal interest, the SFWMD. The SFWMD is beginning preparation of a feasibility study pursuant to section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986, as amended, for submission to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA(CW)). USACE intends to support the ASA(CW) review of the SFWMD’s study by preparing a NEPA assessment concurrent with the SFWMD feasibility study prior to the ASA(CW)’s review.
The purpose of the study is to evaluate a proposed water resources development for the purpose of improving the quantity, timing, and distribution of water flows to help manage Lake Okeechobee levels, improve lake ecology by detaining water during wet periods for later use in the dry periods, and enhance water supply reliability to realize the benefits envisioned in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
The purpose of the associated NEPA is to complete the Federal compliance requirements related to the Section 203 study for use by the Non-Federal Interest in completing the Section 203 Report. USACE is currently gathering information to define issues and concerns that will be addressed in an analysis to be prepared in compliance with the NEPA.
The study builds on previous work completed for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) with a focus on a deep storage reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee as originally envisioned in Component A of CERP. The formulation of the project alternatives will be in accordance with NEPA and Engineer Regulation (ER) 1105-2-100 and will fully consider a range of environmental, economic, and social factors.
Environmental considerations during NEPA analysis may include:
- Air Quality
- Cultural Resources
- Environmental Justice
- Threatened and Endangered Species
- Fish & Wildlife Resources
The SFWMD’s LOCAR Section 203 Study will incorporate the proposed updates to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule through the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual.
USACE welcomes your scoping comments, views, and information about environmental and cultural resources, study objectives, and important features within the described project area.
There will be an opportunity to participate in public NEPA scoping meetings on April 27, 2023, from 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Indian River State College Dixon Hendry Campus, 2229 NW 9th Avenue, Okeechobee, Florida 34972. Detailed meeting information, including how to access the virtual meeting is available at www.sfwmd.gov/LOCAR.
Please submit written public scoping comments to LOCAR@usace.army.mil (recommended subject line: “LOCAR NEPA Scoping Comments”) by Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
All comments will be summarized, addressed, and used to inform the Lake Okeechobee Component A Storage Reservoir Section 203 Study.
To clarify, Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir (LOCAR) Section 203 Study and Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) are two separate proposed projects.
The LOCAR Section 203 Study is focused on identifying above ground storage north of the Lake and is conducted by the South Florida Water Management District.
Concurrently with the LOCAR Section 203 Study, the USACE will be completing a NEPA analysis of the LOCAR Section 203 Study.
The LOWRP is still expected to consist of wetland components and Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells (ASR) previously identified in the June 2022 Third Revised Draft Project Information report and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, but the Jacksonville District is coordinating approval of additional time and money from the USACE Headquarters and Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
Although the LOCAR and LOWRP study areas overlap, LOCAR will have no direct impact to LOWRP as the objectives for both projects are different. The LOWRP is still proceeding on its own under CERP planning with SFWMD as the non-federal sponsor. A LOWRP Project Delivery Team Meeting will be scheduled in the next couple of months to provide a status update and discuss next steps.
For more information on LOCAR, please visit: www.sfwmd.gov/LOCAR.