Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project

The Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration project is a Federal Water Resources Project that has an “intended” purpose, per the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to: 

  1. Improve the quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water entering Lake Okeechobee
  2. Provide for better management of Lake Okeechobee water levels
  3. Reduce high-volume discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries downstream of the lake
  4. To improve system-wide operational flexibility

In addition, to the threats to the Tribal Community discussed in this summary, the HERO technical staff questions whether these purported benefits will even minimally be obtained. 

There are three main project features included within the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) including: Wetland Attenuation Feature (“WAF”) (aka Reservoir), aquifer storage and recovery (“ASR”) wells, and wetland restoration. The footprint of the project is located just south and east of the Brighton Reservation. This location will be constructed in areas of known cultural sites. HERO staff has repeatedly objected to the location of the project reservoir specifically due to the Mulberry Mound site and any other sites that could contain burial resources. Cultural surveys have yet to be completed by the USACE on these lands, which they are mandated to complete. The two remaining portions of the project that are separate from the Reservoir are the: 

  1. Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) which is designed to store large quantities of water deep underground and;
  2. a wetland restoration feature designed to restore some existing drained wetlands near the Kissimmee River.

These two remaining aspects of the project may be completed under certain conditions as described in the section: Main Features of the Project Alternative Not Objected and/or Partially Objected by the Tribe further below.

Main Features of the Project Alternative Objected by HERO and the Tribe: 

Wetland Attenuation Feature (WAF):

The inclusion of the K-05 WAF (aka Reservoir) within the has the potential to put the Tribal Community at risk of catastrophic flooding, to impact its cultural resources, and to impact its ability to access Lake Okeechobee water for water supply during times of drought for both the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations. Additionally, the Area of Potential Effect does not include analysis of indirect impacts that may result from a dam failure, as per the USACE flood risk analysis report. The Area of Potential Effect should be redefined to appropriately evaluate all direct and in-direct impacts to the Tribe’s human safety, water supply and entitlement, and environmental/cultural resources. 

The risk assessment performed by the USACE and the application of acceptable risk standards by the USACE does not recognize the Tribe’s independence and sovereign right to establish and assert its view of how risks are assessed and what risk standards are acceptable. 

HERO technical staff asserts that the risks presented by the TSP K-05 WAF are additive to the existing risk profiles of Tribal Members living on Brighton Reservation, and therefore constitutes an increased risk for these Tribal Members above the risks of other Tribal Members that live further away from the proposed reservoir.

HERO technical staff acknowledges that the Final Independent External Peer Review prepared for the USACE by an outside consultant (Battelle) is also consistent with ERMD’s initial assessments and Dr. Daniel’s assessments with regard to the peer review panel’s finding that they could not determine if the proposed project would be either safe or feasible.

Main Features of the Project Alternative Not Objected and/or Partially Objected by the Tribe (these features maybe completed with under following conditions):

Wetland Restoration: 

HERO technical staff is in support of the proposed wetland restoration features (Kissimmee River Center and Paradise Run WetlandS) to historical inundation levels independent of the WAF. 

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Wells:

  1. HERO technical staff strongly supports that the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations for long-term studies investigating the environmental and safety impacts of ASR wells be fully completed and assessed with transparency prior to large scale implementation.
  2. HERO technical staff recommends that ASR wells not be located within any area that could influence or negatively impact the Reservation’s water resources or cultural resources. 



  1. Based on the detailed analysis completed by HERO, the Tribe concludes that the TSP should not be authorized particularly the Reservoir portion of the project. Efforts should be made to return to a more detailed planning stage that broadens the array of alternatives for review, and alternative plan development and evaluation needs to be supported by science based, data driven studies.
  2. The Tribe will reserve the right to lend greater support for ASR wells, provided that the necessary studies are completed as recommend by National Academy of Sciences and review/analysis of results provides assurances that there will not be harm and/or impacts to tribal resources.
  3. The Tribe opposes any impacts to sites that contain burial resources. The TSP should be modified to avoid cultural sites including the Mulberry Mound site and any other sites that could contain burial resources.

HERO has attempted to work with both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District on this project to make it viable by relocating project away from Reservation. Unfortunately, they have been unwilling to move this project away from the Reservation. As long as the Reservoir feature of the project remains in its current location and size, the project will always be unacceptable to the Tribe. HERO staff will continue to object to this project through every administrative and regulatory avenue available to the Tribe and the General Public. The Agencies need to be reminded that these lands are home to the living Seminole People and are in danger of being lost forever. The Federal Government is in a misguided effort to satisfy uninformed special interests with a Federal Construction Project that will virtually eliminate these historic grasslands and cultural sites and replace them with a massive Reservoir.

What you can do….. 

Tribal members should contact their congressional representative to object to this destructive Reservoir project. Below are some of the contacts for this area:

For the 17th Congressional District your representative is Greg Steube, he can be contacted through

For your U.S. Senators you can contact Marco Rubio through

And Rick Scott through

From the Florida Senate you can contact Senator Ben Albritton through

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