Army Corps holds workshop in Cape Coral
The Army Corps of Engineers is vested with managing the flows that come out of Lake Okeechobee.
Recently, residents and stakeholders learned just how difficult a job it can be when taking into account issues not under ACE’s control, such as the climate and current weather.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, held the first of two Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual public workshops on Sept. 16 at the Vineyard Church in Cape Coral, with the other held on Sept. 17 in Stuart.
The workshops provided representatives from different government agencies the chance to give their input as the plan is being developed.
Tim Gysan, LOSOM project manager, said the intent was to present information about the process involved in the planning effort, provide information on what they do at the Corps and how the agency uses the information collected.
“These workshops are another opportunity for the public to be engaged in the LOSOM process,” Gysan said. “The morning session will provide information on the LOSOM process and planning framework, with an opportunity for the public to ask LOSOM-related questions.”
The afternoon session allowed those in attendance to make the call on water management decisions on Lake Okeechobee. In essence, they were to become the ACE or the South Florida Water Management District.
Calvin Neidrauer, chief consulting engineer, of the Hydraulics and Hydrology Bureau, at the South Florida Water Management District, ran two scenarios and the public was able to see the simulated outcome and consequences of their recommended actions.
“We want people to understand the water management system and the complexities of how it operates. The best way to do that, particularly for the armchair quarterbacks, is to get them in the driver’s seat,” Neidrauer said. “Folks learn that it isn’t as easy as they may think.”
In this simplified simulation, participants had the opportunity to decide on the flows going into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and the Everglades to the south (if permissible), with the objective being to keep the Lake O water levels at an acceptable – i.e. safe -level.
Participants did well at first, but as the rainy season arrived, things got complicated, with water levels going too high.
The models Neidrauer chose were from 2004, the year of Hurricane Charley, and 2000, one of the driest summers on record, which resulted in water levels staying low, no matter what anyone did.
Not everyone was convinced of the accuracy of the model. Cheryl Anderson showed Neidrauer an aerial photo of the water in the Caloosahatchee, full of blue-green muck, calling that unacceptable.
“I disagree with the parameters. I want to be where the lake is at 10 feet (acceptable in the model was 13 to 15 feet). That’s why we didn’t have discharges this year. If they had it here last year, this wouldn’t have happened,” Anderson said. “The parameters don’t deal with the crisis we face with the discharges.”
Jason Pim said the simulation was interesting as it allowed you to make decisions, though it was oversimplified.
“You might have to make those decisions day to day or week to week. You would have more data to crunch,” Pim said. “Part of this process will take into account public safety and algal blooms and we aren’t talking about that now.”
The purpose of the LOSOM effort is to reevaluate and define operations for the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule that take into account additional infrastructure that will soon be operational, including the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, Kissimmee River Restoration Project, and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir and C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area/