Coast Guard publishes temporary deviation for Okeechobee waterway

MIAMI – The Coast Guard seeks comment on the temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Florida East Coast Railroad Bridge, mile 7.41, and the NW Dixie Highway Bridge, mile 7.5, across the Okeechobee Waterway, in Stuart.

This deviation goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 21, 2023, for a period of up to 180 days.

This will test a change to the drawbridge operating schedule to determine whether a permanent change to the drawbridge operating schedule is needed.

The notice of temporary deviation from regulations was published in the Federal Register on June 8, 2023. Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before August 4, 2023. You can view the notice of temporary deviation here: Federal Register :: Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Okeechobee Waterway, Stuart, FL

“In addition to collecting critical information to properly inform a future decision, the temporary deviation is intended to provide schedule predictability for both mariners on the waterways and trains that use the railway,” said Randall Overton, director of the Seventh Coast Guard District Bridge Program. “It is the next step in a decade-long process since the original ‘All Aboard Florida’ project was announced in 2012 and represents the ongoing Coast Guard commitment to identifying a reasonable balance between the competing needs of land and waterborne modes of transportation.”

The temporary deviation will further inform the eventual decision to establish a permanent drawbridge operating schedule. The operating regulation for the adjacent NW Dixie Highway Bridge is expected to be modified to allow for the drawbridges to operate in concert.

“The Coast Guard’s priorities always include the navigational safety of U.S. waterways for all mariners,” said Rear Adm. Douglas M. Schofield, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District. “The Coast Guard is adhering to the regulatory process established by Congress regarding bridges and waterways, and we will continue to be transparent in the process.”

The Coast Guard is required by law to regulate drawbridge schedules, and changes to drawbridge operating schedules may be made through the federal rulemaking process or through temporary deviations. The Coast Guard district commander, in this case Rear Adm. Schofield, maintains the statutory and regulatory authority to implement changes to drawbridge schedules, and may initiate a temporary deviation to the operating schedule of a drawbridge for up to 180 days to test a proposed operating schedule prior to initiating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a final decision.

The public may submit comments through the Federal Decision-Making Portal. To do so, go to, enter docket number “USCG-2022-0222-2361” into the search bar, and click “Search.” Next, look for this document in the Search Results column, and click on it. Then click on the “Comment” option to add remarks.

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