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Guest Commentary: Your voice is needed to reduce future Lake Okeechobee discharges

April 3, 2019
By Kevin Ruane , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

We have an opportunity to reduce future harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries. Your comments are needed by April 22 to improve how the lake is managed. To send a letter to the U.E. Army Corps of Engineers, visit https://p2a.co/1SSv0Lf.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting public input on the development of a new Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule. The new schedule will be referred to as the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). LOSOM will provide guidance to the Army Corps on how to manage lake levels for multiple purposes, including protection of the lake's ecology, water supply for agricultural, urban and environmental uses, and discharges to the estuaries.

A series of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public scoping meetings were held throughout South Florida through March 20 and public scoping comments will be accepted until April 22. For more information on the public scoping process, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM.

Lake Okeechobee discharges have the single greatest impact on water quality in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries during wet periods. Changes to the way the lake is managed could provide immediate relief to our coastal communities. The reality is, according to the current Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan project schedule, there is no single project that will provide immediate relief from the harmful discharges. On the other hand, modifying the lake schedule to maintain water levels lower and providing beneficial water releases to the Caloosahatchee and other natural systems when needed during the dry season would reduce the volume of water that must be discharged in the wet season.

There are several aspects of the existing 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) that must be addressed in the LOSOM to make it more equitable for all affected stakeholders while protecting the coastal estuaries. Below is a summary of key items that we would like to see the Army Corps address:

The relationship between water quality and Florida's economy has never been more apparent than it is today. The impacts to our communities cannot continue.

Please make your voice heard and submit a comment letter to the Army Corps today by visiting https://p2a.co/1SSv0Lf. You can also take action to stop future Lake Okeechobee discharges by texting "MYSANIBEL" to 52886.

Kevin Ruane is the mayor of the city of Sanibel.

 
 

 

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