JACKSONVILLE – The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Project Delivery Team (PDT) will help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fine tune the plan to manage the operation of the big lake. Currently the lake is managed under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) which was adopted in 2008 due to concerns about the safety about the Herbert Hoover Dike, an earthen berm that surrounds the second largest freshwater lake within the confines of the continental United States.
In late 2022 or early 2023, when nearly $2 billion in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike are completed, LOSOM will go into effect.
Earlier this month, the corps chose a basic lake operation plan from five proposed alternatives. Kelly said on Aug. 25, the LOSOM PDT will meet and from that group a small team will be chosen to help advise the corps on the optimization of the LOSOM plan.
“All stakeholder groups will be represented,” on the sub-team, Kelly explained. On Aug. 25, the main PDT will walk through some of the guidance for optimizing the lake plan and discuss how the PDT will continue.
“We will come back to the broader forum and talk about where we are,” he explained. “We will share everything that we know that we’re working on, where we are in the process and how we’re going forward, organizing the team as we’ve made a transition from how do we make Lake Okeechobee better and how do we look at each of those authorized purposes to how do we get to optimization and write the manual.”
He said the optimization should be complete in October. Following that, “we will write the actual guidance that goes to day-to-day operations of Lake Okeechobee.”
“We have specific goals to make LOSOM the best it can be,” said Kelly. He acknowledged complaints from Lee County that the chosen plan will damage the Caloosahatchee estuaries by sending more freshwater west.
“We are very used to being sometimes the center of some negative attention but its OK,” he said. “It’s important to Florida and important to the corps.”
He said during the optimization process the corps will look at allowing the lake to go higher to reduce harmful releases to the Caloosahatchee. They will consider releases to the St. Lucie to reduce the stressful releases to the Caloosahatchee.”