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SCCF: New Lake O operating system in final stages | News, sports, jobs – SANIBEL-CAPTIVA


SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on May 24 for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), the updated management plan for Lake Okeechobee.

The plan is intended to maximize the number of days the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds receive low or optimal flows from Lake Okeechobee, and to increase the amount of water transported southward to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Throughout the five-year LOSOM development process, the SCCF provided modeling, evaluation, and commentary on the proposed plans. Now in its home phase, the FEIS is in a 30-day review period, after which a Record of Decision (ROD) will likely be issued and signed, making it effective.

“With the wet season quickly approaching, we welcome today’s announcement from the Army Corps. LOSOM will provide the operational flexibility to prevent some of the worst impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in our northern estuaries.” That’s according to environmental policy director Matt DePaolis. “LOSOM won’t solve all of our problems, but it will reduce the number of harmful discharges that transport vast amounts of polluted lake water into our estuarine ecosystems. As our recent research shows, even one HAB event can be enormously destructive to the economies of our coastal communities.”

The SCCF reported that some of the intended outcomes of LOSOM include recognizing the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a separate and distinct user of the water supply, reducing stress on the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, sending more water south and better tackling HABs.

“With LOSOM online, we move one step closer to protecting our estuaries, strengthening our communities and restoring America’s Everglades,” he said.

The SCCF noted that despite LOSOM’s operational improvements, the FEIS states that more water storage is still needed as provided in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. As a recent study from the SCCF’s Marine Lab shows, fully protecting the Caloosahatchee Estuary will require finding solutions to the pollutants generated in the local watershed.

PUBLIC MEETING PLANNED

A virtual LOSOM Project Delivery Team Meeting will take place on July 24 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM, for the public to attend and comment. The login details are as follows:

https://usace1.webex.com/meet/earl.t.gysan

Toll-free dial-in number (ATT Audio Conference): 1-844-800-2712

Dial-in number (ATT audio conference): 1-669-234-1177

Access code: 1997788788

Questions about the FEIS can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Attn: Jacob Thompson, Project Biologist, 701 San Marco Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32207-8915.

To read the FEIS, visit https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/utils/getfile/collection/p16021coll7/id/25886.