Comment period extended on plans for reservoir

JACKSONVILLE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District is still accepting public comment on the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) revised draft Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement (PIR/EIS).

Public comment will be accepted through Sept. 3, 2019. This is an extension of the previously advertised public comment date of Aug. 19.

A statement issued by the corps on Aug. 23 explains: “The corps released a Revised Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report (PIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) for public/agency review on July 5. It has come to our attention that the Engineering Appendix did not include the following annexes: Annex A-1 Hydraulic Design, Annex A-2 Hydraulic Modeling, Annex A-3 Model Documentation Reports, Annex B-1 Geotechnical Data, Annex C-1 Plates, Annex G-1 Geotechnical Investigations. The correct version of the Engineering Appendix has been uploaded to the project website www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOWRP/. To allow more time to review the entire Engineering Appendix, we have extended the public review period to end on Sept. 3, 2019.”

The corps plan proposes a shallow (with water up to about 4 feet deep) Wetland Attenuation Feature (WAF) with a storage volume of approximately 46,000 acre-feet; 80 aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells with a storage volume of approximately 448,000 acre-feet per year; and two wetland restoration sites along the Kissimmee River, Paradise Run and Kissimmee River Center.

The WAF and the wetlands restoration sites are in Glades County. The ASR sites are in Glades, Okeechobee and Martin counties. Because the ASR wells have small footprints of about 1.5 acres each, many may be constructed on property already in state ownership.

WAF
According to the draft report, 50 private landowners own property within the WAF project area. Approximately 155 parcels are affected by the project, including 106 privately owned parcels and 68 publicly owned parcels. Some landowners own more than one parcel. The WAF will impact approximately 108 parcels, which encompass approximately 13,600 acres. Some of the land is already in public ownership. Approximately 9,300 acres are owned by private landowners.

ASR wells
The project calls for 80 aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells. Of those 25 will be co-located with the WAF. The remaining 55 ASR wells will be located throughout the watershed and will require about 1.5 acres each, for a total of approximately 83 acres.

Wetlands restoration
The wetlands restoration will encompass about 4,800 acres. About half of the land — about 2,332 acres — is already in public ownership. Sixteen private landowners will be impacted.

“We appreciate all of the people who joined us at the public meetings in Lehigh, Stuart and Okeechobee, and provided comments in 2018,” said Corps Project Manager Tim Gysan. “Public feedback is a key part of our process, and the comments we received are reflected in this revised draft document. It is important to the corps to provide an opportunity for the members of the public and stakeholder agencies to comment on the additional information included in this revised report prior to moving forward with the final PIR/EIS.”

The revised draft LOWRP Integrated PIR/EIS document is available at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOWRP/.

The corps will accept public comment on the revised draft document through Aug. 19.

Those interested in submitting comments may do so electronically at OkeechobeeWatershedRestoration@usace.army.mil.

Written comments can be mailed to:
Dr. Gretchen Ehlinger
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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