JACKSONVILLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, announces brief public comment on the Draft Emergency Environmental Assessment (EA) and Proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) associated with an emergency deviation to the Combined Operational (COP) Water Control Plan to provide relief from high water levels in the Everglades. Public comments are due by noon on Monday, Nov. 2.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is preparing a Draft Emergency EA and Proposed FONSI associated with emergency deviation to the Combined Operational (COP) Water Control Plan to provide relief from high water levels in Water Conservation Area WCA-3A.
The emergency deviation aims to reduce stages in Water Conservation Area 3A in Palm Beach and Broward Counties for the protection of fish and wildlife resources. All Water Conservation Areas are significantly above schedule due to recent heavy rains on the east coast of Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District sent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a letter dated Oct. 25, 2020, requesting immediate action from the Corps to provide relief from the high-water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A. A letter affirming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaging in Emergency Consultation procedures under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was received by the Corps on October 28. In addition, the Corps received a letter of support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on October 28.
“We have been monitoring conditions and coordinating closely with our federal and state agency partners, and we receive great input from many other agencies stakeholders on a regular basis,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “The entire south Florida system has been pretty wet since May, and the recent heavy rainfall on the east coast of Florida has raised water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A to a foot above schedule.”
“In response to the requests from our state and federal partners, we are considering the effects of an emergency deviation and emergency actions to reduce stages in Water Conservation Area 3A,” said Kelly. “We are expediting an emergency deviation from the Combined Operational Plan that could allow for the continued operation of both the S-12A and S-12B structures, as well as the renewed operations of the S-343A and S-343B structures.”
“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, at the latest.”
The emergency deviation would re-open structures S-343A and S-343B, and maximize releases from these structures at approximately 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) each. The S-12A and S-12B structures are currently open, but are scheduled to close on November 1, 2020, and December 1, 2020, respectively. The emergency deviation would keep S-12A and S-12B open and maximize releases at these structures at approximately 500 cfs each. 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 Draft Emergency EA and Proposed FONSI associated with an emergency deviation is available for review and comment at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/Deviations.
Please submit comments on the Draft Emergency EA and proposed FONSI to Melissa.A.Nasuti@usace.army.mil, by noon on Monday November 2. Please include “Everglades Emergency Deviation Comments” in the subject line of emailed comments.