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  • Katrina Elsken Lake Okeechobee News

LOSOM will hold lake level higher

The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is still on track to be approved by the end of the year, according to information shared at the July 24 LOSOM Project Delivery Team (PDT) meeting.


Booth said they have seen a lot of algal blooms on Lake O this year. “We knew this was coming,” he said. The colonel said flow from Orlando south from Hurricane Ian brought a lot of excess nutrient load into the lake, and that water has also kept the lake level high. The high lake level means the lake’s vegetation – its own natural filter system – has not had a chance to recover from the storm damage. The summer has brought record hot weather which also encourages algal blooms.


Booth said the visible blooms are primarily in water pushing against the water control structure at Port Mayaca where there has not been any flow.


LOSOM also eliminates stressful high volume freshwater releases to the Caloosahatchee River, he said.



USACE Hydraulic Engineer Savannah Lacy said LOSOM now includes more details about operational strategy when the lake is in Zone D (which ranges from 10.5 feet in June to 16.75 feet in October). Operational considerations will include: • Lake stage;

• Inflow;

• Weather forecasts;

• Downstream capacity; and,

• System conditions, including water quality.


“The lake is unusually high for the storm season,” he said. High water devastates the lake, which affects the lakeside communities, the businesses and the real estate values around Lake O, he continued. “High water is going to devastate these things and I don’t see any way out of it. Holding high water is detrimental to the SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) and the wildlife in the lake.


“It’s sad to think the lake is being held high,” said Newton Cook of United Waterfowlers Florida. “It’s a gamble.” In addition, the area is being hit by Saharan dust which adds to the nutrient load.


“One storm coming in will mean that water, dirtier than ever, will be blasting out the estuaries,” said Cook. “The lake has been held too high, too long since (Hurricane) Irma. We’re going to get more rain. We’re going to get more storms."


Cook said the lake is the heart of the Everglades. “When the lake is not healthy, no place will be healthy in the Everglades.”


He noted NMFS raised concerns and suggested state agencies should have similar concerns about the impact of LOSOM on endangered species whose habitat includes Lake O.


“Where is U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? They should be all over the endangered species on the lake,” he said.


“Each and every time we go into the wet season with a high lake, there is no excuse. When you do that and you destroy the lake ecology, there is no excuse.”


Nyla Pipes of One Florida Foundation said LOSOM leaves too many questions unanswered. “I find it still too loose, too full of maybes, too flexible and too unreliable,” she said. “It will be very difficult for utilities and agriculture to plan for water supply. It does not meet the needs of the endangered snail kite.


"Holding the lake higher will result in larger, harmful discharges", she added. “Our hurricanes come in September. I have to be on record as saying I think we’re headed for some really rough years. We’ve got to do better than say ‘It’s really hard.’


“If you damage the heart of the Everglades, everything downstream is going to suffer.”

Mike Elfenbein noted USACE changes commanders every three years.


The catastrophic decisions being made with the lake’s ecology are going to impact the coast, said Mike Elfenbein. “Consequences of these decisions will be felt for a very long time and most of you won’t be here to see that.”


Hendry County Commissioner Ramon Iglesias said at the ribbon cutting for the HHD rehabilitation, a representative from the Everglades Foundation declared the future is bright for Lake Okeechobee.


“That’s not true,” he said. “You guys are rewriting history. Your names will be in the books on the demise of Lake Okeechobee.”


Iglesias said Lake Okeechobee is not a man-made lake. It’s a natural lake and fishery. He said while the lake ecology did survive lake levels above 15.5 feet in the past, the lake ecology was in better shape and better condition to survive high water levels then.


The final draft of the water control plan is online at www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/


Click to read the full article here.

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