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Tell the Army Corps that LOSOM must be balanced for all stakeholders

By JAMES EVANS - | Jul 30, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED James Evans

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently in the process of developing a new regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee, referred to as the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). The new plan will guide how water in the lake is managed and the volume and duration of flows sent to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and south to the Everglades. LOSOM will replace the current Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS 2008) and is anticipated to guide lake operations for the next decade until additional Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects are completed.

The Corps recently selected Alternative CC as the plan that will move forward in the next step of the LOSOM process. It is currently evaluating options to optimize performance of alternative CC to better balance the various project purposes, needs of the natural systems and stakeholders. Between Aug. 6 and 10, the Corps will announce what components of alternative CC it will optimize in the next modeling phase. Your voice is urgently needed to let the Corps know that we do not accept CC in its current form.

Alternative CC as it exists today would be harmful to the Caloosahatchee for the following reasons:

– Regulatory flows to the Caloosahatchee are measured at the lake instead of the estuary when conditions are wet, which does not consider watershed runoff. This can result in higher damaging flows to the coast. On the east coast in the St. Lucie, flows are always measured at the estuary. This is an issue of transparency and balance.

– It relies on the Caloosahatchee as the primary outlet for Lake Okeechobee, resulting in significant improvements to some stakeholders at the expense of the Caloosahatchee and west coast communities.

SCCF

– It increases the total volume of nutrient-laden water that is delivered to the Caloosahatchee and coastal waters that would be available to harmful algal blooms, like blue-green algae and red tide.

– It increases the number of days and duration of stressful and harmful flow events (flows greater than 2,100 cubic feet per second) to the Caloosahatchee, impacting salinity and the ecological health of our estuary.

We are asking the Corps to incorporate the following changes into alternative CC to ensure it is balanced for all stakeholders:

– Measure all discharges to the Caloosahatchee Estuary at the Franklin Lock (S-79).

– Cap regulatory discharges made in Zone D, the primary operational zone, to a maximum of 2,100 cfs at S-79 — consistent with the ecological performance targets for the Caloosahatchee estuary.

– Equitably distribute flows across all outlets — south, east, and west — when conditions are wet.

– Allow for beneficial dry season releases to the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades in all zones.

– Minimize or eliminate back flowing of nutrient-rich water from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) and C-44 basins into the lake.

– Evaluate and improve upon modeling completed by the South Florida Water Management District in sensitivity run 3.5 (SR3.5), which reduced the harmful high-volume discharges to the Caloosahatchee.

To send the Army Corps an email to let them know that the Caloosahatchee cannot be sacrificed to protect other parts of the water management system, visit https://p2a.co/nUHOTxQ.

James Evans is environmental policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Founded in 1967, the SCCF’s mission is to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems. For more information, visit www.sccf.org.