The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District is implementing temporary operational changes to alleviate high water conditions within the Everglades’ water conservation areas west of the Fort Lauderdale and Miami metro areas.
The temporary deviation aims to reduce stages in Water Conservation Areas 1, 2, and 3 in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties. Heavy rain since the beginning of June have caused the water levels in the conservation areas to rise to historic levels for this time of year.
“We are working closely with our federal, state, and tribal interests to maximize our operational flexibility,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “High water levels are threatening Everglades’ wildlife and habitat and reducing the storage available for additional precipitation. If we don’t address this situation now, the potential exists for levee safety issues to develop from additional rain during wet season or tropical events.”
The Corps plans to implement the following actions in response to the event:
• Reducing flows from Water Conservation Area 1 into Water Conservation Area 2A.
• Opening structures S-12A/B, S-343A/B, and S-344, increasing the amount of water released from Water Conservation Area 3A into Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
• Opening a temporary water control structure, S-152, to allow additional water to flow from Water Conservation Area 3A into Water Conservation Area 3B.
• Increasing flows through pump station S-332D in Miami-Dade County. This allows additional water to flow from Conservation Area 3 through the L-29, L-31N, and C-111 canals.
• Increasing flows at structure S-197 to accommodate additional flows from Water Conservation Area 3A through the South Dade Conveyance System, while maintaining capacity to handle local storm runoff from future rain events.
“We anticipate these actions could increase outflows from Water Conservation Area 3 by 30 percent,” said Kirk. “These actions will significantly slow the rise of water in the area, but we’ll need drier weather before we start seeing water levels recede.”
The level today in Water Conservation Area 1 is 16.29 feet, the level in Water Conservation Area 2 is 12.88 feet, and the level in Water Conservation Area 3 is 11.19 feet. Water Conservation Area 3 has received 18 inches of rain through June 23. The stages for two of the three conservation areas are the highest on record for the month of June.
The Corps is implementing these measures while it continues construction on critical pieces of infrastructure which are part of the Modified Water Deliveries and C-111 South Dade projects in Miami-Dade County.
“One of the items we learned from deviations we conducted in 2016 was how important it is to finish the remaining levees that form the south Dade detention areas,” said Kirk. “Our strategy is to slow the rise in Water Conservation Area 3 while continuing construction on the features needed to move more water south in the future.
The Corps has been coordinating with other tribal, state, and federal agencies to minimize the impact of these operational adjustments to nearby communities. These agencies include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Everglades National Park.
Due to the urgency of these operational changes, an expedited Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) has been prepared to assess any environmental impacts associated with this action. The EA and FONSI are currently available for public and agency review. Comments will be accepted through July 28, 2017. Additional information is available at: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Water-Management/WCA-3-High-Water-Deviation/