When Captains For Clean Water was founded in 2016, our slogan was “Three estuaries. A solution. And that couldn’t be more true today.
As the US Army Corps of Engineers sets parameters for a new Lake Okeechobee operational schedule, stakeholders in estuaries and affected communities are united in our desire to send water south to mitigate impacts on the Caloosahatchee and Saint Lucia rivers.
The new operations manual, called the Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual, or LOSOM, will replace the current flawed operating system and provide a new framework for how the Corps manages the lake for the next decade. Depending on how it’s written, the manual has the ability to provide almost immediate relief to estuaries, so it’s critical that the Body gets it right.
The Corps recently narrowed down the proposed models to five variations, each favoring a different part of the system – one was even written by lobbyists in the sugar industry.
This scenario is gold for vested interests who profit from the division and confusion among stakeholders. They dig a ditch by making it an “east versus west versus south” scenario where no one wins.
But we are putting a new scenario on the table. He who unites, does not divide. A solution that benefits the whole system, not just one component.
Working with U.S. representatives Byron Donalds, R-District 19, and Brian Mast, R-District 18, and a handful of environmental and conservation groups from coast to coast, we came together and collaborated on a equitable and scientifically based solution for all. .
We sent a letter (which you can find on TCPalm.com) to the Corps saying, “This is what we want, clear and simple.
Without going into the complexities of the proposed LOSOM plans, we urge the Corps to adopt an improved version of the alternative CC plan. We want it to be modified to send as much water as possible to the Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay during the dry season and to eliminate harmful discharges in the St. Lucia and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the lagoon. from Lake Worth.
By sending water south during the dry season, you create more capacity in Lake Okeechobee for summer rains so it doesn’t have to go east or west. The east coast doesn’t want water at all and we don’t want it during the rainy season when the Caloosahatchee receives a lot of low volume beneficial flows from our local watershed.
We are asking the Corps to use the system as a whole rather than using only the east and west estuaries as relief valves.
This operational change with LOSOM can help with toxic algal blooms, salinity imbalances, and all those excess nutrients that fuel the red tide. This solution provides benefits to all of South Florida’s estuaries – the east and west coasts to Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.
There are really three main components to the quality of our water here in Florida. Pollution by nutrients, infrastructure and operations. This LOSOM conversation is the operational part, focusing on how we are using existing infrastructure to the best of its ability and for the benefit of the entire system.
Making sure we have a plan that is compatible with the billions of taxpayer dollars the state has already invested in this infrastructure – seems like the right thing to do.
As we work on long-term solutions, it’s critical that we leverage operations to get that water to flow south to where it needs to be, providing immediate relief and benefits to the entire connected system. of the Everglades and preventing another toxic summer in South Florida.
Captain Daniel Andrews, of Fort Myers, is Executive Director of Captains For Clean Water.