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:
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:
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):
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:
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 https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home
And Rick Scott through
From the Florida Senate you can contact Senator Ben Albritton through http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s26?pref=full