The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has taken several steps over the weekend to address high water levels in conservation areas west of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
On Sunday (July 1), the Corps raised the maximum allowable level in the L-29 Canal to elevation 8.0 feet, a 0.5-foot increase from its current level. Raising the water level in this canal will increase flows under the one-mile Tamiami Trail bridge built by the Corps, and make it possible to move more water from Water Conservation Area 3 (WCA-3) which sits north of the canal.
“This is a significant accomplishment that has been years in the making,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “We have wanted to raise this water level since heavy rains affected south Florida in late May, but we recognized that we needed to progress further on construction of key features along the eastern edge of Everglades National Park. We are happy to report that construction is now far enough along that we can operate these features in a manner that provides benefits to nearby property owners while we concurrently finish the remaining work on this project.”
The Corps has finished the most critical components of the North Detention Area of the C-111 South Dade project in Miami-Dade County. This project and others in the area help manage seepage for nearby property owners that could result from the increased flows into the park.
The Corps has also taken additional action over the weekend to address water levels in WCA-3. The Corps is implementing deviations in operations that allows for higher water levels in WCA-2A for the rest of summer and the first half of fall. The dry-season recession will start in November and take place over six months instead of the normal four months.
“Storing more water in Conservation Area 2 helps reduce inflows into Conservation Area 3,” said Kirk. “As we work to improve outflows from Conservation Area 3, the reduced inflows set conditions that a recession in the water level could take place, creating some additional storage for future wet season rains.”
This deviation is similar to one the Corps implemented in 2017, when faced with similar high water conditions. Additionally, the Corps approved a deviation that allows for the opening of the S-344 structure to move more water out of WCA-3.
The stage in Water Conservation Area 3A is 10.91 feet, a foot and a half above the 9.31 foot level called for in the Corps’ water management plan. The Corps will continue to monitor water levels throughout the system and make adjustments to flows as necessary.
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, expedited Environmental Assessments (EA’s) and Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI’s) have been prepared to assess any environmental impacts associated with this action. Two EA’s and FONSI’s are currently available for public and agency review. The Corps will accept comments through July 17. Additional information is available at: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Water-Management/WCA-3-High-Water-Deviation/
For more information on water level and flow data throughout central and southern Florida visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.