As the selection of the new Lake Okeechobee management plan (LOSOM) draws closer, we’re doubling down on our efforts to put pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers to select a plan that truly benefits all stakeholders. Earlier this week, we were joined by individuals and groups from the affected estuaries and communities to send a formal letter to the Corps demanding that they adopt a more equitable operational plan as they finalize LOSOM.
Over the past month we’ve coordinated with groups from the west coast to the east coast, down to the Everglades and Florida Bay to determine what’s best for everyone—we came together, agreed on a balanced LOSOM solution for all, and have delivered that specific, achievable plan to the doorstep of the Corps.
LOSOM will dictate Lake O releases for the next decade, and the Army Corps of Engineers is nearing completion of the new plan’s development, but their proposed models fail to provide true balance to all the system components. This improved plan that we’ve proposed modifies one of the five final model runs laid out by the Corps—specifically Plan CC.
It’s the result of a collaborative effort by various stakeholder groups from across south Florida, and it will finally codify a written doctrine that provides true balance to the way that the system is managed—something that really hasn’t existed since the system was manipulated a century ago.
Together, we’re urging the Corps to adopt a more equitable operational plan that strives to send the maximum amount of water to the Everglades, Everglades National Park, and Florida Bay during the dry season and eliminate harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the Lake Worth Lagoon.
We’re asking the Corps to use the system as a whole, rather than just using the east and west estuaries as release valves. To do that, we’re asking that the Corps adopts an improved version of Plan CC that includes the following goals:
- Adjust the modelling for Plan CC to include an environmental demand for water in the Everglades so that water will be sent south in all operational bands from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and increase dry season flows above volumes provided by LORS 2008 (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule).
- Eliminate regulatory releases to the St. Lucie.
- Eliminate harmful regulatory releases to the Caloosahatchee while maintaining beneficial dry season releases, targeting RECOVER restoration flows of 750-2,100 cfs at S-79 whenever possible.
- Measure all Caloosahatchee flows at the S-79 (Franklin Lock) and reduce “up to” discharges in the upper bands (Zone B and Zone C) to no more than 4500 cubic feet per second.
- Minimize regulatory releases to the Lake Worth Lagoon.
- Add operational flexibility to avoid discharge to the estuaries when cyanotoxin levels exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s established guidelines for recreational exposure.
We also recognize that the state has a role to play in sending Lake Okeechobee water south to the Stormwater Treatment Areas. The South Florida Water Management District controls three of the six primary outflows from the lake, and the Corps controls the other three. In this request, we’re calling on both agencies to work in tandem to achieve a LOSOM that protects public health, natural systems, and all stakeholders.
We we’re joined in signing this letter by U.S. Congressman Brian Mast, U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds, The Everglades Foundation, Florida Oceanographic Society, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Bay Forever, and Friends of the Everglades.