The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division has approved a request from Florida Governor Rick Scott for deviation from its water control plan for a key Everglades reservoir located west of Miami.
The division made the decision to grant the request for deviation based on extensive documentation from within the Corps and multiple partners representing federal, state, and tribal interests.
The deviation raises water levels in the L-29 canal, which runs along the north side of the Tamiami Trail (US Hwy 41) between Water Conservation Area 3 (WCA-3) and Everglades National Park. The WCA-3 water control plan limited those levels to elevation 7.5 feet (NGVD). The deviation raises the levels as high as elevation 8.5 feet, which would allow more water to flow from WCA-3 to Everglades National Park.
“WCA-3 is a foot above its regulation schedule,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “This action will allow us to get more water out of the conservation area and lower the water level.”
Before granting the deviation, the Corps coordinated with tribal staff, while the State of Florida coordinated to obtain the necessary permissions from private property owners who face potential flooding from higher canal levels. The action would allow up to 900 additional cubic feet per second (cfs) to flow through the L-29 canal and into Everglades National Park.
“Our current focus is to lower the water level in WCA-3,” said Kirk. “If the level drops and we start seeing capacity in the conservation areas, then we could look at sending water from Lake Okeechobee south as well.”
Today’s stage in WCA-3 is 11.41 feet and rising. The top of its regulation schedule is 10.21 feet. Nearly all water control plans for lakes and reservoirs in south Florida call for decreasing levels during the traditional dry season to make room for rain that falls during wet season, which typically begins in the latter part of spring.
The Corps of Engineers partnered with the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, South Florida Water Management District, Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and coordinating with the Miccosukee and Seminole tribal staff to undertake this emergency action.
For more information on water levels and flows data for south Florida, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.