The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announces the opening of public comment on the Environmental Assessment (EA) and proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for a planned, temporary deviation from the 2020 Combined Operational Plan (COP). The COP is a comprehensive, integrated Water Control Plan (WCP) for the southern portion of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) Project – including Water Conservation Area 3A (WCA-3A), Everglades National Park (ENP), and the South Dade Conveyance System (SDCS). Public engagement is encouraged, and comments are due Monday, November 6.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District (Corps) has prepared a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) EA and proposed FONSI for the planned, temporary deviation from the 2020 COP. The proposed planned, temporary deviation is being pursued to address the current water level concerns in WCA-3A and potential El Niño conditions in early 2024.
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided correspondence between October 11 and October 16, 2023, requesting that the Corps consider a deviation from the COP WCP to take additional actions to lower water levels in WCA-3A. The Corps, in coordination with agency partners, is proposing a planned temporary deviation to allow the S-343A, S-343B, S-12A and S-12B structures to be open until the WCA-3A stage recedes below Zone A of its regulation schedule or December 31, 2023, whichever occurs first. The proposed deviation would also allow the Corps to open structures S-343A, S-343B, S-12A and S-12B for an additional 90 days, not necessarily consecutively, if water levels are in Zone A of the regulation schedule between January 1, 2024 and July 14, 2024. This would allow the Corps to have additional capacity to manage water levels in WCA-3A during potential El Niño conditions in early 2024, which can bring more rain than normal during the winter and spring.
Under the COP WCP, the S-343A and S-343B are closed on October 1, and the S-12A and S-12B are closed by November 1 and December 1, respectively. These structures are allowed to reopen on July 14, pursuant to the COP WCP. The Corps may also reduce or end the proposed deviation prior to achieving the above criteria based on weather forecasts, the recession rate in WCA-3A, and C&SF system conditions. The proposed deviation actions for the structures are provided in the EA Appendix A. The Corps has completed informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the proposed planned temporary deviation can be implemented quickly to provide benefits to listed species in WCA-3A and minimize ecological impacts, while minimizing long-term effects to CSSS habitat in subpopulation Ax.
The Corps has prepared an EA and Proposed FONSI that will accompany the proposed planned, temporary deviation request to the Corps’ South Atlantic Division for review and decision following review of public input.
This news release announces a 7-day public review period soliciting comments for consideration prior to finalization of the NEPA document. The Environmental Assessment and Proposed Finding of No Significant Impact for the 2023 Planned Temporary Deviation Due to Water Levels in Water Conservation Area 3A in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida are available for review and public comment at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/Deviations/ (note: large files may take a few minutes to download).
The Corps requests that comments be submitted to COPdeviation@usace.army.mil no later than Monday, November 6 (Recommended Subject: “2023 Planned Temporary Deviation for WCA-3A”).
The Corps appreciates the ongoing efforts of the public to stay informed and remain engaged in our projects. The feedback that we receive from stakeholders and members of the public provides important local knowledge that informs our decision-making process.
The COP is a comprehensive, integrated WCP for the southern portion of the C&SF project – including WCA-3A, ENP, and the SDCS. Planning efforts for the COP were initiated in 2017, to coincide with completion of the Modified Water Deliveries to ENP and the C-111 South Dade Projects. The WCP was implemented September 1, 2020, after completion and approval of the WCP and the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Combined Operational Plan (COP) is available for reference at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/COP. To view, scroll down to the middle of the webpage and remember that large files may take a few minutes to download.
The purpose of the COP is to define operations for the constructed features of the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park and Canal 111 South Dade Projects, while maintaining the congressionally authorized purposes of the C&SF Project which include flood control (now referred to as “flood risk management”), navigation, water supply, recreation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife, drainage and water control, groundwater recharge, preservation of Everglades National Park, and prevention of saltwater intrusion. The proposed action within the Final EA would occur within the Everglades of southeastern Florida in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.