As seen in a News-Press OpEd submitted by John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper, February 1, 2019

Southwest Florida residents will be the first to weigh in on the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) public scoping process for the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).

Meetings will open to the public on Feb. 5 at the Lee County Mosquito / Hyacinth Control Auditorium in Lehigh Acres, 15191 Homestead Road. There are two sessions scheduled: 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. This is the most direct and immediate way we can have a say in how water discharges to the Caloosahatchee are managed.

Bringing more balance back to the Lake O regulation schedule is vitally important. Harmful algal blooms stemming from Lake releases have impacted people’s health, their property values and further diminished the waters and wildlife that our tourist-based economy depends on.

The scoping meetings are the first step in the Corps’ environmental review of LOSOM. The Corps has proposed a schedule for completing LOSOM to sync with certain infrastructure projects, in particular, the Herbert Hoover Dike repairs, which are expected to be completed no sooner than September 2022.

Promises to effectively repair the dike have been continually delayed from 2006, 2012, 2013, 2020 and most recently to 2022. Furthermore, the Corps has already indicated it will not adopt higher Lake levels once the dike is repaired. Therefore, there’s no compelling reason to wait until the repairs are completed before implementing measures to protect the estuaries immediately.

The proposed timeline is too long and will potentially subject both east and west coasts to the same impacts we saw this past summer for possibly four more wet seasons. Hundreds of millions of dollars could be at stake in each of those four seasons for our local economy and Southwest Florida still hasn’t realized the full impacts of the lost summers of 2016 and 2018.

Combining a more balanced and accelerated LOSOM with the Governor’s new environmental initiatives on water quality is the blueprint for ending this crisis. The stakes are enormous. Please attend the scoping meeting on Feb. 5, share your concerns and tell the Army Corps we can’t afford to wait four more summers for relief.

Pubic input is needed for the Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual (LOSOM). We urge you to submit a comment before March 31st to: [email protected]

Submit a Comment

Or, you may also submit comments by mail:
Dr. Ann Hodgson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019