Following decisive direction from Gov. Rick Scott and an emergency order issuance by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) implemented an array of new actions Thursday, adding to current efforts already under way to lower lake levels and move more water into the conservation areas caused by record May rainfall. 

 These measures, which would have been slowed by typical agency approval processes, will now move forward on an expedited basis to help reduce the severity of, and need for, flood releases that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is making from the lake to the northern estuaries.

“We are taking every opportunity to remove water from the conservation areas through our regional flood control system,” SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez said in a written statement. “These measures, combined with necessary actions by our federal partners, will help reduce the water levels caused by the record-setting rainfall we have seen so far this wet season.”

Record rainfall in May dropped more than 300 percent of the average monthly rainfall across South Florida. This rainfall caused the lake to rise more than a foot prior to the onset of the wet season, which led the USACE to begin releases from the lake on June 1 to the northern estuaries to ensure flood protection for the citizens who live south of the lake. At the same time, this record rainfall inundated the water conservation areas, causing them to rise above their regulation schedules.

Scott visited SFWMD’s West Palm Beach headquarters Thursday to discuss his emergency order and what actions the District is proposing to aid the USACE in alleviating the high water emergency. 

Have a look at his press conference by clicking on the video on this page.

The District’s new measures enabled by the emergency order include:

  • Moving water out of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area in Palm Beach County into the C-18 Canal to create additional capacity to move water south.
  • Installation of temporary pumps near the S-39 Structure to move additional water out of Water Conservation Area 2 to the Hillsboro Canal on the Palm Beach-Broward county line, creating capacity in the conservation area.
  • Installation of temporary pumps at the S-151 Structure to move an additional 200 cfs of water out of Water Conservation Area 3A in Miami-Dade County.
  • Operation of the S-152 Structure to move 400 cfs out of Water Conservation Area 3A.
  • Installation of temporary pumps at several locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that will move water from the conservation areas into the L-29, L-28 and C-4 canals.

All of these actions, coupled with the actions SFWMD already had under way, help create capacity in the conservation areas to take water south from Lake Okeechobee. SFWMD Chief Engineer John Mitnik gave a video update this week on current water conditions and ongoing District actions to lower water levels.  These actions include:

  • Using the S-5A Pump Station in Palm Beach County to move 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) out of the L-8 Canal to prevent water from gravity flowing back into Lake Okeechobee.
  • Moving water to tide through every available structure, including the Hillsboro, North New River and Miami canals.
  • Using the S-34 Structure to move 200 cfs out of Water Conservation Area 2A into the North New River in Broward County.
  • Fully utilizing the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin and L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, both components of Gov. Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan, to store water.
  • Storing water on public lands through the Dispersed Water Management program.
  • Working with private landowners to store water on their properties.      

In addition, the USACE officials agreed to lower the levels of the C-111 Canal in Miami-Dade County by utilizing the S-176 and S-177 structures. This temporary canal lowering will aid the USACE in finishing needed levee construction to allow for the expedited completion of a detention area project. 
 
The completion of these projects sooner will allow more water to be moved south out of the water conservation areas. Freeing capacity in the conservation areas will allow them to take more Lake Okeechobee water south and reduce the need for damaging releases being made by USACE.
 
“We appreciate our federal partners helping us do whatever is within their power to lower water levels,” Mitnik said. “Working together, we can all address this unfortunate situation as quickly as possible.”


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