For many years, the area known as the “Native Area” or the area west of the North Feeder and south of the West Feeder Canal has been the natural and cultural jewel for the Seminole Tribe.
The Native Area and the lands to the south harbor much of the region’s wildlife and rich medicinal resources. The Western Everglades Restoration Project (WERP) is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Planning project and a component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) designed to help restore, reconnect and maintain these areas with the natural areas to the south.
The project’s primary objective is to improve the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water in the Western Everglades, including the Big Cypress Reservation’s Native Area. It is designed to re-establish sheet flow across this sensitive natural area and into the Big Cypress National Preserve while maintaining existing levels of flood protection and water quality standards.
The Project study area encompasses the Seminole Big Cypress Reservation extending roughly from Lake Okeechobee to the Big Cypress National Preserve and covers approximately 1,200 square miles.
HERO technical staff has worked extensively with USACE staff to shape the current Tentatively Selected Plan called Alternative H. The major aspects of this project affecting the Seminole Big Cypress Reservation include:
Main Features of the Project Alternative H Supported by the Tribe:
Conditional Aspects of the Project Alternative H Supported by the Tribe:
This WERP project has been heavily negotiated by HERO staff to ensure that additional natural flows to help restore and maintain the Native Area and its resources will be provided. The Restoration must also ensure that the “new” offsite water coming into the Native Area must be from natural watershed areas and must be clearly shown to be equivalent to that in the “Native Area” before it will be allowed to be introduced into the “Native Area.” The end result of this hydroperiod restoration project will be a revitalized ecosystem that will reestablish the historical ecological connectivity and ecological resilience of this region.
It should be noted that Alternative H is not the final plan. The USACE planning process is an ongoing process and allows for pre-decisional government-to-government consultation that includes extensive community involvement and engagement through Tribal community and public meetings. The Tribe will always have a role in the decision making on these types of projects because the USACE is required to recognize the sovereign status of Tribal governments and their obligation for pre-decisional government-to-government consultation. The USACE is required to recognize the unique role Tribes play as partners in water resources projects and must seek to develop relationships with all Tribes who may need our assistance in the area of capacity building and self-determination. The USACE must work with HERO technical staff and the Tribal community to consider all potential effects of this project on natural and cultural resources.