Acquisition of Florida Power and Light Company Lands in the East Everglades Expansion Area
The National Park Service (NPS) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate options and potential impacts for acquiring lands owned by the Florida Power and Light Company (FPL) within the East Everglades Expansion Area (Expansion Area) of Everglades National Park. This will include the potential exchange of lands authorized in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 and other reasonable alternatives. The NPS decision at the conclusion of this process is whether to exchange NPS lands for FPL's lands within the Park boundary or to acquire FPL's lands by purchase, eminent domain, or by other means to be identified in the EIS.
Background: The Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989 expanded the boundaries of the Park to include approximately 109,600 acres. That act and additional legislation authorized the NPS and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to acquire lands within the Expansion Area.
FPL owns about 320 acres of land within the Expansion Area. Because the FPL property is currently undeveloped and is needed for ecosystem restoration and enhancement, the NPS is seeking to acquire the FPL property, manage it as part of the Park, and maintain it in its undeveloped condition.
As you may recall, the NPS began an Environmental Assessment (EA) process for the FPL land acquisition in June 2009. After careful consideration of public comment and the issues and analyses developed during the EA process, the NPS determined that there is potential for significant impacts to the human environment from this decision. Therefore, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the NPS initiated an EIS for the proposed land acquisition.
A Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on May 26, 2011. Public scoping for the project was conducted between June and July of 2011. A public scoping meeting was held on June 22, 2011 at the Florida International University. A scoping newsletter, public meeting transcript, and the public scoping report can be accessed by clicking on the "Document List" link to the left of the screen. A slide presentation, posters and other information presented at the public meeting are also posted at this location.
Since that time, the National Park Service has been developing the range of land acquisition alternatives that may be included in the Draft EIS. These include the three preliminary alternatives (no-action, land exchange, and purchase/condemnation), two new alternatives (fee for easement exchange and acquisition of a flowage easement), and potential conditions for the exchange alternatives. Information gathering and studies needed to inform the EIS are also underway. These include a viewshed impacts analysis and an avian impacts study. Appraisals have been obtained for establishing opinions of value for the land exchange alternative and a range of values for the purchase/condemnation alternative. NPS has been working with FPL to acquire the latest information related to their proposed transmission lines and ensure that this is included in the Draft EIS.
When the Draft EIS is complete, there will be a 60-day public comment period. The public will be able to submit comments via a link at this website and at a public meeting that the NPS will hold in South Florida. The dates of the public review period and the details of the public meeting will be announced by press release, email notifications, notices on the park and project websites, and publication of a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. After the public comment period ends, the NPS will analyze public comments. This information will be used to finalize the EIS, which is anticipated to be released to the public in the summer of 2013.
Thank you for your interest in this project and for your support of the National Park System.
Dan B. Kimball
Brien F. Culhane
Chief, Planning and Compliance
Everglades National Park