Army corps hosting Cape Coral workshop for Lake O public input

Water managers in the state recognize the impacts Lake Okeechobee water releases have on the Caloosahatchee River and other waterways in Southwest Florida. And they recognize the negative impacts they have had on the lives of Southwest Floridians, especially during summer 2018. So state experts want to sit down and chat.

Florida’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to host a workshop at Cape Vineyard Community Church in Cape Coral Monday to gather public input on Lake Okeechobee.

A focus at the workshop is the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), which is set to receive updates in response to new projects currently underway near the lake. The army corps will provide information on the manual and answer public questions.

The manual lays out how the Lake’s water levels are regulated.

“It’s a flood control problem,” said Professor Barry Rosen, who teaches at The Water School at FGCU. “If the water becomes too high, the integrity of the dike is threatened, and they have to release some water.”

People like David Keppel in Fort Myers experienced the height of the toxic blue-green algae crisis in 2018, and he wants to see the funding go toward solutions for water quality issues related to Lake O and beyond.

“You could see some of it close to shore, but most of it was just the odor. And who wants to smell that if you’re a tourist or whatever?” Keppel said. “Why don’t we get this thing done, and spend the money now and be through with it?”

Rosen said current projects involve reinforcing the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake O. Once they are completed, LOSOM will become outdated, so they want to inform Southwest Floridians while it’s in the process of updating the manual.

“By 2022, there will be a new reinforced dike around the lake,” Rosen said. “And these other projects will be online, so the idea is to help the public understand how they regulate and move that water around when it becomes too high.”

Rosen hopes the workshop is a success and said this could be an important meeting to shed light on the complexities of water management for all who attend.

“There’s a lot of — we call it knobs — that you can turn, but there’s consequences,” Rosen said. “If you turn something over here, it has a consequence over there.”

The public workshop runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church (923 SE 47th Terrace, Cape Coral).

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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