Model run chosen as framework for Lake Okeechobee operating manual

Published: November 16, 2021 5:07 PM EST
Updated: November 17, 2021 6:40 PM EST

The operating manual to layout how to manage Lake Okeechobee is now nearing the finish line, and it’s good news for the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday afternoon that it narrowed thousands of scenarios related to lake-level management down to one.

It’s all part of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).

The biggest benefit to Southwest Florida is the reduced Lake Okeechobee nutrient-rich freshwater discharges into the Caloosahatchee estuary.

And as we’ve all seen, those discharges can become harmful and lead to more algal blooms.

The Corps said they are at a very important milestone, but they aren’t done yet, “We still must develop the operational guidance that translates the modeling into a water control plan that is adaptable to the dynamic conditions we operate under in Florida, and we still have to go through the final reviews before we can begin using the new LOSOM. We are counting on all of you to help us in these last few steps, and I am confident you are going to be there with us at the finish line when we start reaping the benefits of LOSOM.”

Doug Akins lives and Lee County and says water quality is very important to him, “I’m just one person, and I know it’s important to a lot of people in Southwest Florida … It just needs to be fixed and I’m hopeful that people are trying to fix it the right way and not just put a Band-Aid on it.”

“LOSOM is really the playbook that will dictate how our water is managed when we send it, where, and at what time, and how much volume,” said Captains for Clean Water Co-Founder Chris Wittman. “It results in an environmental collapse and ultimately has a major economic impact.

The Corp believes the plan will eliminate stressful releases to the Caloosahatchee, which in turn should mean fewer algal bloom outbreaks, all while still providing necessary flows when needed and continuing to move water south.

“We triple the amount of water going south to the Everglades, where it’s really needed,” Wittmann added, “What that means for us here in Fort Myers is that’s less water that’s going to get dumped on our community.

The model chosen is expected to:

  • Eliminate lake releases to the St. Lucie under normal conditions, sending zero lake water to the East 95% of the time. Under 2008 LORS, releases east were at zero only 37% of the time and the flows could reach 1,800 cubic feet per second even in the low sub band.
  • Eliminate stressful releases to the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee under normal conditions and provide lake flows that are compatible with estuarine ecology as recommended by RECOVER.
  • Increase flows south to the Central Everglades to an average annual of 200,000 acre-feet per year and preserve the opportunity to release water all the way to the water shortage management line in coordination with the SFWMD.
  • Provide better water supply for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, and the Lower East Coast Service Areas than LORS 2008 currently provides.
  • Ensure the safety of the 9.3 million people of South Florida who rely on the Herbert Hoover Dike for flood protection.
  • Provide compatible lake operations as the C-44 and C-43 reservoirs come online.
  • Reduce damaging dry downs on Lake Okeechobee.

For more information on the LOSOM plan click here.