Forget "balance" and "shared adversity" when it comes to the management of Lake Okeechobee. In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Congressman Brian Mast insisted the new Lake Okeechobee Operating System Manual (LOSOM) have no releases from the big lake to the St. Lucie River. To do otherwise would be " unconscionable," he wrote.
Neither the St. Lucie nor the Caloosahatchee River were directly connected to the lake by nature. Before man's interference, the St. Lucie was also not connected to the ocean or the lake and the Caloosahatchee River only received flow from the lake during the wet season when water overflowed from the lake through a series of smaller lakes and marshes into the Caloosahatchee River.
The Central and South Florida Flood Control Project funneled water much faster than nature designed into Lake Okeechobee, which means water may flow in six times faster than it can be released south. C&SF used the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee as release values to send excess water to tide. But the excess freshwater flow can be damaging to the estuaries. One of the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is to reduce those releases. (Thanks to the dredging for flood control, the Caloosahatchee River now depends on dry season lake releases for freshwater flow because the local basis drains too quickly.)
LOSOM will go into effect when repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike are complete in 2022.
In his Jan. 27 letter to Col. Andrew Kelly, Mast called on the corps to use a modeling strategy that eliminates any lake releases to the St. Lucie.
"As part of the Conceptual Plan Phase for the development of a new regulation schedule (LOSOM), the Army Corps and South Florida Water Management District presented modeling data proving that it was possible to eliminate regulatory discharges to the St. Lucie within the operational band while at the same time improving performance for water supply and the other Congressionally-authorized project purposes," Mast wrote. " I think it would be unconscionable if the Army Corps selected a final plan that does not eliminate regulatory discharges to the St. Lucie."
Of note: At Port Mayaca, where the lake meets the St. Lucie Canal, water can flow in either direction. Flow there is gravity flow. During the past year, when the lake was below 14 feet, local basin runoff into the St. Lucie Canal flowed into the lake.
LOSOM meeting Monday
The LOSOM Project Delivery Team (PDT) will meet Monday, March 22 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions on public meetings, this meeting will be held online only. The purpose of this PDT meeting will be to provide an overview of the Iteration 1 modeling results.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the government agency PDT meeting and provide comment during designated periods.
Those who wish to view the meeting are asked to log into the webinar first and have it call your phone in order to avoid background noise so all participants can hear the discussion clearly. Please mute your phone and mute your computer upon joining the meeting All lines except those who are scheduled to speak will be muted during the meeting.
The meeting will be Monday, March 22 at 10 a.m. online at https://usace1.webex.com/meet/earl.t.gysan
Call-in toll-free number is (ATT Audio Conference):1-844-800-2712.
Call-in number (ATT Audio Conference) is: 1-669-234-1177
Access Code: 1997788788
There will be an opportunity for public comment following the PDT presentation and discussion.
For those who cannot attend the online meeting but wish to provide a comment, please send those comments by email to LakeOComments@usace.army.mil.
Additional information is available at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/