SFWMD, USACE Take Emergency Action To Protect Wildlife From High Water
District's ongoing actions and Corps' latest temporary regulation deviations are reducing water levels in water conservation areas to protect the Everglades ecosystem.
West Palm Beach, FL - Heavy June rainfall throughout South Florida, with some areas receiving more than 2.5 times the average, has led to dangerously-high water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties. With approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is using structures not previously available as well as taking several other steps to send as much water possible to tide to protect wildlife in the conservation areas.
High water levels in the conservation areas pose a significant hazard to wildlife. If high water levels persist beyond 60 days, survival of animal species is put at risk. If high water levels persist beyond 90 days, survival of plant species, including tree islands, is put at risk. These risks prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to close Water Conservation Area 3A from recreational use and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue an Emergency Order last week to protect wildlife from flooding.
"Given the enormity of the ongoing emergency situation in Water Conservation Area 3, the District and our federal partners have responded with emergency deviations to protect wildlife," said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe. "Whether federal or state, it is each water managers' responsibility to do everything in their power to lower the water levels and protect this area from further harm ."
The emergency deviations approved by the Corps in response to this emergency allow SFWMD to send more water to tide using the S-197 structure in Miami-Dade County, as well as increasing pumping at the S-332D pump station and allowing the use of the S-343A and B and S-344 structures to move more water out of the conservation areas to Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve.
In addition to the emergency deviations approved by the Corps, SFWMD is also taking several other actions to lower water levels and reduce the risk of flooding during this emergency including:
- Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 1 to tide through the Hillsboro Canal in Palm Beach County.
- Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the C-14 Canal in Broward County.
- Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the North New River Canal in Broward County.
- Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 3A to tide through the Miami Canal in Dade County.
- Maximizing discharges through the S-333 structure at the southern end of Water Conservation Area 3A to Everglades National Park.
- Releasing water through S-334 structure to the South Dade Conveyance System where it is being sent to tide.
- Using gravity to send water that would otherwise be pumped into Water Conservation Area 3A to tide. The S-13 Pump Station is also being used to pump water during high tide when it would be impossible to use gravity.
- Moving water from the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
- Moving water from Stormwater Treatment Area 2 to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
- Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to tide through the C-51 Canal.
- Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the L-8 Canal.
- Maximizing flows out of Water Conservation Area 3A through the S-344, S-343A and 343B structures.
- Constraints removed from S-199, S-200 and S-737 structures, moving water into Everglades National Park from the C-111 Canal.
The Corps also plans to implement several actions in response to the high water emergency including:
- Reducing flows from Water Conservation Area 1 into Water Conservation Area 2A.
- Opening structures S-12A and B, increasing the amount of water released from Water Conservation Area 3A into Everglades National Park.
Additionally, SFWMD has begun daily inspections along the stretch of the L-37 Levee, bordering Water Conservation Area 3A in Broward County between Interstate 75 and Griffin Road, to ensure its integrity. SFWMD safety and operating procedures require checks of the levee when water levels exceed 11.48 feet. High water levels in the conservation area can put pressure on the levee and must be monitored. In 2014, SFWMD reinforced several sections of the Broward East Coast Protective Levee, including the L-37 Levee, by installing a filter berm that used sand to minimize the impact of seepage on the levee.
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