JACKSONVILLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continued the public engagement in the discussion of plans for changes to the management of Lake Okeechobee during the Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual (LOSOM) Project Delivery Team (PDT) meeting on Aug. 25.
Col. Andrew Kelly, commander of the USACE Jacksonville District, said the corps is considering changes to LOSOM to reduce stress on the Caloosahatchee estuaries.
“We’re doing to modeling,” he said. “We are looking at how to make those incremental changes to see what the benefit is on each one of those.”
He said they are looking at “tweaks” to the chosen LOSOM plan.
“We think we’re going to come back to you in the middle of September,” to share what the computer models indicate the “tweaks” to the LOSOM plan will do.
Savannah Lacy, hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in iteration 3, PDT workshops will consider:
• Algal boom operations - Guidance for conditions that could trigger a water management action to be taken and actions to consider;
• Lake recovery - What would we do to accomplish a lake recovery?;
• Make up releases - Guidance on how to account for not doing the “up to” amounts recommended by the schedule by making up those releases later;
• Flow ramp up/ramp down - If we do have to increase releases how do we do that with the least impact possible? The same goes for ramping down.
These workshops are in the planning stages. Times and dates have not yet been announced.
The week of Sept. 6, the PDT will discuss algal bloom operations. They will try to identify the “red flags” USACE will consider in determining if water management actions should be considered. Questions might include:
• Are there toxin concentrations within the lake that would be of concern?
• Does it matter where in the lake the toxins are found?
• Are there toxin concentrations in the Okeechobee Waterway or within in the estuaries that are significant.
• Is there a percentage of bloom coverage, according to satellite imagery, that is significant?
• How should future algal bloom forecasts be considered?
• What conditions would increase the risk of blooms?
• What other water quality indicators should be considered?
She said PDT will also discuss, “once you have indicators in place, what are the water management actions USACE could take to respond?” She said they hope to come up with a set of guidelines that could be considered.
The week of Sept. 20, the PDT will discuss lake recovery, environmental conditions, and plans to ramp up/ramp down releases.
The week of Sept. 27, the PDT will discuss water conservation, forecasting and make-up releases.
Feedback form the PDT will be incorporated into the water control plan.
“It seems you have a good list of the concerns in regard to operation of Lake Okeechobee,” said Jed Redwine, of the National Park Service. He said the plan would benefit from an adaptive management process. “It’s important that we recognize the challenges of the past, but it’s also important we recognize new challenges.”
“I am concerned we’re not spending enough time on the authorized purposes of water supply, navigation and flood control,” said Nyla Pipes, of One Florida Foundation.
“Water supply is a priority,” said Ryan Rossi of South Florida Water Coalition. “If the whole point of this all along was balance, shouldn’t the goal for water supply be better, not ‘as good or better’ than current levels?”