The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announces the approval of an emergency deviation to the Combined Operational Plan (COP) Water Control Plan to provide relief from high water levels in the Everglades.
The emergency deviation aims to reduce stages in Water Conservation Area 3A (WCA-3A) for the protection of fish and wildlife resources. All Water Conservation Areas have been at least a foot above schedule due to recent heavy rains on the east coast of Florida.
"We have initiated an emergency deviation to relieve stresses on the Water Conservation Area," said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. "That means we were able to open up the S-12A, S-343A and S-343-B structures, to provide some quick relief from the high-water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A.”
“With the support of our federal and state partners, and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, we now have the increased capacity to move water out of WCA-3A in order to reduce the duration and magnitude of high water levels in WCA-3A,” said Kelly.
“The Corps and our partners at the South Florida Water Management District will continue to monitor the system to determine the specific closure dates, and we expect closures to occur as we reach the WCA-3A Regulation Schedule,” said Kelly. “We expect the end of the deviation, with all four structures to be closed by January 31, 2021 at the latest.”
The emergency deviation would re-open structures S-12A, S-343A and S-343B, and maximize releases from these structures at approximately 750 cubic feet per second (cfs) combined. The S-12B structure was originally scheduled to close on December 1, 2020. The approved emergency deviation would keep S-12B open and maximize releases at this structure at approximately 500 cfs. Operations associated with the emergency deviation defined in the operational strategy (Appendix A) of the EA are anticipated to be in place until the WCA-3A stage recedes below Zone A of the WCA-3A Regulation Schedule or January 31, 2021, whichever comes first. The Corps may also reduce or end the deviation actions prior to the above criteria based on weather forecast, the recession rate in WCA-3A, and system conditions. Operations per the 2020 COP Water Control Plan would resume thereafter.
The Corps will convene coordination meetings during implementation of the emergency deviation with our partners at Everglades National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida to discuss and evaluate specific minimization recommendations during implementation.
Expedited consultation of the emergency deviation was coordinated with various federal and state agencies, as well as federally recognized Tribes, and there was an expedited environmental review of the proposed emergency response actions under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Emergency EA and FONSI associated with the emergency deviation will be available at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/Deviations. (note: large files may take a few minutes to download).