Army Corps of Engineers to receive $50 million from state for Herbert Hoover Dike repairs

Crews install a partial cutoff wall in the middle of the Herbert Hoover Dike near Pahokee in 2012. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed 21.4 miles of cutoff wall in the southeast side of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee from 2007-2013. (Source: Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has signed an agreement with the state of Florida to accept $50 million of state funds to help with rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.   

The agreement is the result of a measure passed by the Florida legislature during their 2017 session.  The agreement allows USACE to use the funds to pay for a portion of the rehabilitation of the 143-mile earthen structure that surrounds the lake.

“This agreement is another important milestone in the federal-state effort that provides great value to the citizens of Florida and the nation,” said Col. Jason Kirk, commander of Jacksonville District.  “It allows us to fully fund a construction contract to install six miles of seepage barrier west of Belle Glade in Palm Beach County.  We look forward to starting this work as soon as possible.”

USACE has been undertaking a $1.8 billion rehabilitation program designed to reduce flood risk for people living and working around the lake.  Since 2001, USACE has invested more than $940 million to construct several features that include installation of 21 miles of seepage barrier and replacement of close to two dozen water control structures.

“We have shown that Florida will stop at nothing to ensure the communities and environment surrounding the Dike are fully protected,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott.  “While there is still more to be done, today’s news is great for Florida.”

The $50 million funds a contract to construct six additional miles of seepage barrier, also known as a partial cutoff wall, into the dike itself.  The dike, due to the methods of construction at the time, is susceptible to seepage that can lead to erosion.  The installation of seepage barrier and replacement of water control structures is expected to reduce seepage thereby reducing risk for those who live and work in the area.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a longstanding partnership with Florida in our combined efforts to restore the Everglades,” said Kirk.  “State assistance to the vital rehabilitation of Lake Okeechobee’s Herbert Hoover Dike is an extension of the restoration partnership.”

Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) is a 143-mile earthen dam that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades system.  The project reduces impacts from flooding as a result of high lake levels for a large area of south Florida.

Since 2001, the Corps has made a significant investment, over $870 million, in projects designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic failure of the aging structure. Actions taken include installing a partial cutoff wall along the southeast part of the dike, removing and replacing water control structures (culverts), and conducting a variety of studies and technical reviews to help ensure the safety of south Florida residents. Corps teams work daily on the dike, providing contractor oversight, quality assurance, inspections, and dike operations and maintenance. Much progress is also being made behind the scenes at the District, where a team of engineers, hydrologists, geologists, scientists, contract and real estate specialists, budget analysts, and many others, work to ensure the very best rehabilitation strategies are applied to the dike today and in the future.

The HHD Project team maintains close coordination and communication with other internal Jacksonville technical offices such as Engineering, Planning, Contracting, Corporate Communication, Construction and Operations while maintaining a presence (HHD Project Manager forward) in the local project area to communicate regularly with local communities and the construction field offices regarding project updates and problem solving.

The first embankments around Lake Okeechobee were constructed by local interest from sand and muck, circa 1915. Hurricane tides overtopped the original embankments in 1926 and 1928, resulting in over 2,500 deaths. 

The River and Harbor Act of 1930 authorized the construction of 67.8 miles of levee along the south shore of the lake and 15.7 miles along the north shore. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the levees between 1932 and 1938. 

A major hurricane in 1947 prompted the need for additional flood and storm damage reduction work. As a result, Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1948 authorizing the first phase of the Central and South Florida (C&SF) Project, a comprehensive plan to provide flood and storm damage reduction and other water control benefits in central & south Florida. The new dike system was completed in the late 1960’s and named the Herbert Hoover Dike. 

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