The USACE, NPS, SFWMD, and Miami-Dade County have conducted numerous public meetings to help land owners and residents understand that the features being implemented by the MWD Project are not intended to provide for the full level of flood protection as afforded by the Central & Southern Florida Project for lands east of the East Coast Protective Levee.
Since these lands are subject to routine flooding, a wetland disclosure statement was established 30- years ago following the Miami-Dade County 1981 Zoning Overlay Ordinance (Dade Ordinance 82-113).- Dan Kimball, Superintendent Everglades National Park
Mr. Lee N. Hefty, Assistant Director
Permitting, Environment, and Regulatory Affairs Miami-Dade County
701 NW 1st Court Suite 400
Miami, FL 33136
Dear Mr. Hefty:
Land use and land management discussions regarding the 8.5 Square Mile Area (SMA)/Las Palmas Community have a long and complex history. These discussions generally focus on the three issues of flood protection, compensation for acquisition of needed lands, and zoning. In response to your request, the purpose of this letter is to provide some perspectives of Everglades National Park regarding these issues. As you are aware, these issues involve local, state, and federal regulations requiring input from Miami-Dade County, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and the National Park Service (NPS). I have tried to address each of these issues below in the context of the federal requirements associated with the 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act (1989 Act), which authorized the implementation of the Modified Water Deliveries (MWD) to Everglades National Park project, including the structural features associated with the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community. I have also provided a brief summary of the current status of the implementation of the MWD Project following the discussion of these issues.
Flood Protection and the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community
Lands in the East Everglades, including the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community, are subject to routine flooding because these lands are located to the west (or the unprotected side) of the East Coast Protective Levee System in South Florida. The 1992 General Design Memorandum for the Modified Water Deliveries (MWD) Project and the 2000 General Reevaluation Report for the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community component of the MWD Project called for the mitigation of any increased flooding to the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community resulting from the MWD Project. Flood mitigation features for the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community, as part of the MWD Project, were completed in 2008 pursuant to Congressional direction contained in the 2003 Consolidated Appropriations Resolution. This Resolution directed implementation of Alternative 6D that provided for the public acquisition of the western one-third of the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community and the implementation of flood mitigation features (including a perimeter levee, a canal, and a pump station) for the remainder of the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community, designed to mitigate for any additional flooding caused by the restoration of water flows to Northeast Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park. The USACE, NPS, SFWMD, and Miami-Dade County have conducted numerous public meetings to help land owners and residents understand that the features being implemented by the MWD Project are not intended to provide for the full level of flood protection as afforded by the Central & Southern Florida Project for lands east of the East Coast Protective Levee.
Since these lands are subject to routine flooding, a wetland disclosure statement was established 30- years ago following the Miami-Dade County 1981 Zoning Overlay Ordinance (Dade Ordinance 82-113).
More specifically, all transactions involving the sale or transfer of real property or interest in real property located within the East Everglades Area of Critical Environmental Concern include in the documents of conveyance the following statements:
“THE LAND WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF THIS TRANSACTION IS LOCATED IN THE EAST EVERGLADES AREA OF CRITICAL CONCERN. THE LAND IS SUBJECT TO PERIODIC, NATURAL FLOODING, WHICH POSES A SERIOUS RISK TO PERSONS AND PROPERTY IN THE AREA AND MAKES THE PROPERTY UNSUITABLE FOR RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT.
METROPOLlTAN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY AND THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT HAVE OFFICIALLY DETERMINED THAT FLOOD PROTECTION FOR THIS AREA WILL NOT BE PROVIDED WITH PUBLIC MONIES.
METROPOLITAN DADE COUNTY HAS ALSO DETERMINED THAT IT WILL NOT CONSTRUCT ANY NEW ROADS IN THE AREA OF CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN AND WILL MAINTAIN ONLY THE FOLLOWING ROADS: SW 136 STREET FROM SW 187 AVENUE TO SW 209 AVENUE; SW 168 STREET FROM LEVEE L-31N TO SW 237 AVENUE; INGRAHAM HIGHWAY (FORMERLY SR 27).
I HEREBY CERTIFY THAT I HAVE READ AND UNDERSTAND THE FOREGOING STATEMENT."
(Followed by a signature and date block that had to be completed by the party acquiring the property.)
To further assure that East Everglades flooding concerns were known to residents in the area and to emphasize that flood protection was not planned for the area, Section 4.C. of Dade County Ordinance 81- 121 specifies that "No permit for use or development on any land within the East Everglades Area of Critical Environmental Concern shall be issued by any agent of Dade County government that does not contain the following statement":
"THE SUBJECT PARCEL OF LAND IS LOCATED IN THE EAST EVERGLADES AREA OF CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN AND IS SUBJECT TO SEASONAL FLOODING. NEITHER DADE COUNTY NOR THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT PLANS TO CONSTRUCT FLOOD PROTECTION WORKS WHICH WOULD BENEFIT THE SUBJECT PARCEL. MOREOVER, NEITHER DADE COUNTY NOR THE SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT WILL ALLOW THE OWNER (OR PERMITTEE) TO USE PUBLIC CANAL SYSTEMS TO PROVIDE DRAINAGE THAT IS NOT NOW AVAILABLE TO THE SUBJECT PARCEL. IN ADDITION, IT IS AGAINST COUNTY POLICY TO EITHER PROVIDE NEW ROADS OR TO MAINTAIN AND/OR IMPROVE PRIVATELY BUILT ROADS IN THE AREA.
I HEREBY CERTIFY THAT I HAVE READ AND UNDERSTAND THE FOREGOING STATEMENT."
(Followed by a signature and date block that had to be completed by the party requesting the permit.)
Land Acquisition and Compensation for Acquisition
Land Acquisition: Implementation of Alternative 6D for the Modified Water Deliveries Project required the acquisition of 3,534 acres of land within the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community. All lands were purchased by the USACE and will be transferred to federal, state, and local government agencies as indicated in the table below.
The majority of these lands (64.6%) will be transferred to the SFWMD and consists of lands that lie between the boundary of Everglades National Park and lands that remain in private ownership (see Figure 1). These lands are generally to the west of the perimeter levee and serve as an important buffer between the park and the on-going agricultural and urban uses on lands to the east. As depicted on Figure 1, 1,144 acres of the 1,249 acres transferred to NPS (or 92% of the land transferred to NPS) consist of parcels of land that were within the boundary of the park as established by the 1989 Everglades National Park Expansion Act. All of the lands designated for transfer to Miami-Dade County are associated with existing roads within the area (see Insets #1 and #2 in Figure 1).
Compensation for Acquisition: The owners of lands in the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community that were within the authorized acquisition area (i.e., west of the perimeter levee) were provided compensation based on fair market value and in accordance with Federal law and acquisition regulations established by the Federal Government. Appraisals were conducted by independent third party contract appraisers and reviewed by government appraisers to ensure consistency with national appraisal rules and standards. All appraisals were based on pre-project conditions, and fair market value was paid for the tracts. A market study of the East Everglades by the firm of Pritchett, Ball & Wise, Inc. indicates that land values in this area are much lower than similar lands to the east of the East Coast Protective Levee where flood protection is provided. For lands within the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community that were not designated for acquisition (i.e., to the east of the perimeter levee), the SFWMD had a willing seller program in effect for many years, providing fair market compensation for the purchase of those lands. (If you would like more detailed information with respect to compensation for lands acquired in the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community as part of the MWD project, we could obtain this information from Real Estate staff that were involved in the project.)
Zoning on lands with the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community is the sole responsibility of Miami-Dade County and is not regulated or controlled by the Federal Government. All lands in the East Everglades are located to the west (or unprotected side) of the East Coast Protective Levee System and are subject to routine flooding. In 1974, lands in the East Everglades, including lands in the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community, were zoned in Miami-Dade County's initial Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) as Conservation and Environmentally Sensitive lands. In 1981, lands in the East Everglades were designated as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern" (Chapter 33-B, Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances). In accordance with this designation, allowable land uses in this area are very restrictive because these lands are considered “essential to assure the protection and maintenance of the public health, safety and welfare of the present and future inhabitants of, and visitors to, Metropolitan Miami-Dade County." Specific reasons for this designation included: (1) recharge of the Biscayne aquifer; (2) surface water supply to Everglades National Park; (3) flood storage capacity; (4) water quality maintenance; (5) protection of the economic vitality of Miami-Dade County; and (6) the protection of native vegetation, wildlife, and other natural features (see Chapter 33-B, Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances for additional details).
A series of Management Areas were established for the East Everglades, and the 1981 Zoning Overlay Ordinance defines allowable land uses in these areas. As such, these requirements have been in effect for over 30 years. As noted above, land owners in the East Everglades should understand these land use restrictions because there is a requirement that a Wetlands Disclosure statement be included in the deeds for all of these lands. The disclosure is required to ensure that purchasers of these lands understand the restrictions that have been placed on the property as a result of the Area of Critical Environmental Concern designation. There have been dozens of publicly noticed meetings over the last 30 years so that local residents and land owners could receive detailed information on land use restrictions and environmental protection requirements applicable to this area.
Essentially all of the lands within the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community are already zoned for agricultural uses, subject to environmental performance standards (Dade County Ordinance 81-121, Section 6. relating to dredge/fill, road construction, vegetation management, and agricultural practices). More specifically, the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community is included in Management Area 1 and is classified as a "Modified Environment." Management Area 1 is located in the eastern-most and highest elevated portion of the East Everglades adjacent to the L-31N Canal. These lands are zoned for agriculture and to maintain their existing, low density rural residential character (i.e., 1 dwelling unit per 40 acres). While these lands include the highest elevated lands in the East Everglades, the 1981 ordinance recognized that groundwater levels were expected to be within one foot of the land surface for up to 30 days per year, and prolonged surface water flooding was expected to occur at least once in 5-7 years.
Zoning changes can occur every two years, during the regular review cycle of Miami-Dade County's CDMP. A currently proposed CDMP modification would allow for broader uses of these lands for agricultural purposes (i.e., to allow for agricultural production, including nurseries and tree farms and limited raising of livestock). The SFWMD has informed the County that it is concerned that this change will complicate water management in this area, citing limited flood protection and water quality impacts (e.g., the use of chemicals and fertilizers in agricultural operations). With regard to this proposed modification, Miami-Dade County has informed residents that their land has existing deed restrictions which, as noted above, explicitly state that the area is prone to flooding, and that agricultural practices, while allowed, are subject to risks that must be assumed by the owner of the property. From the standpoint of Everglades National Park, we have concerns similar to those expressed by SFWMD since, in accordance with the MWD Project, the Federal Government is responsible for providing only flood mitigation for the Project (not flood protection for the area) and any water quality degradation associated with expanded agricultural activities must be properly mitigated.
MWD Project Implementation Status
Through passage of the 1989 Act, Congress authorized the USACE to construct modifications to the Central and Southern Florida Project for the explicit purpose of improving hydrologic and ecologic conditions within Everglades National Park. The USACE recognized that the restoration components of the project had the potential to adversely impact the agricultural and residential area comprising the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community. Therefore, the project includes structural components designed to provide the needed flood mitigation for increased water levels in the area caused by the restoration components of the project. Construction of the final flood mitigation components in the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community is now nearing completion. Initial operation of these features indicated that groundwater seepage from one of the structural features, the Stormwater Treatment Area south of Richmond Drive, caused unacceptable increases in water levels within the southwest corner of the 8.5 SMA/Las Palmas Community north of Richmond Drive. The USACE has evaluated the problem and has identified a structural solution that includes the construction of a seepage collector canal adjacent to Richmond Drive that will intercept and direct the seepage water back to the completed flood mitigation canal. Everglades National Park concurs with this solution and has provided the needed funding for construction. When this additional feature is completed in 2013, the needed flood mitigation required by the project will be realized.
Please contact Dave Sikkema, NPS’s MWD Project Manager (305-224-4214; firstname.lastname@example.org) or me (305-242-7712; email@example.com) if you have any questions in regard to this letter.
Dan B. Kimball
You should have given your money to Dennis Moss!