departmental commission will send a letter of opposition to LOSOM | News, Sports, Jobs – SANIBEL-CAPTIVA
The Lee County Board of Commissioners formalized it today, voting unanimously against the proposed Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual and sending a letter expressing its disapproval to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
A lawsuit could be the next step.
Commission Chairman Kevin Ruane called last week’s meeting with Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander of the Army Corps, to be “rather frustrating.”
In the letter from Ruane approved by the commissioners, the president states that “The overall burden of flood control discharges in the Caloosahatchee would increase. “
The choice option manual chosen by the Corps would be “Load the Caloosahatchee with stressful and damaging discharges over long periods of consecutive months causing irreparable damage to our fisheries and estuarine ecology.”
Today Ruane said “The community is very worried. He said he worked closely with the Army Corps to communicate the county’s point of view. Ruane added that the county has made a “great presentation” at last week’s meeting with Kelly, which included the county consultant and three mayors. The only bright spot he sees in the plan, dubbed Alternative CC, is the low throughput issues. Ruane said that the county “Will receive more low flow problems” to balance the salinity in estuaries.
The problem lies in the high flows of the Caloosahatchee River.
“If it is a wet period of 10 years, the flows will be 50% higher than in 2008”. said Ruane, adding “It’s a very frustrating process going on. I think we have done all we can do.
The changes included requiring the Corps to more accurately report the actual contribution of freshwater to the Caloosahatchee River estuary.
“Total measurements should be measured at S-79”, said Ruane.
Discharges from Lake Okeechobee are expected to be limited to no more than 2,100 cubic feet per second at S-79, the WP Franklin Lock and Dam, depending on the county position.
In November, Army Corps releases from Lake Okeechobee averaged over 4,500 cubic feet per second, which is considered harmful to the estuary by the Calusa Waterkeeper. The Calusa Waterkeeper considers the discharges to reach the level harmful to the estuary when they reach 2,800 cubic feet per second or more. The estuary was still receiving up to 3,000 cubic feet per second or more in December and high levels of red overlap and fish mortality were reported in late December in Lee County.
Ruane also called on the Corps to direct more flow south.
Ruane said Kelly said minor changes could be made to the plan, but Ruane said “Major changes” were needed. Last week Ruane said “open heart operation” was needed for the manual, which will determine operating procedures for the next decade.
Today, Ruane called on commissioners to make court challenges an option.
District 5 Commissioner Frank Mann said he agreed with Ruane, but said the county had been “ignored before” and asked “What big hammer do we have? “
Lee County District Attorney Richard Wesch said an endangered species law challenge could be launched.
“The citizens of Lee County can’t take this anymore”, said Ruane.
He said the federal government was not acting fast enough.
“We have to live with this for 10 years”, said Ruane.
He said other government agencies might be willing to support the county and said he believed the county was united.
“Everyone is petrified because 2018 was not so far away”, said Ruane.
“There comes a time when you get too many punches in the mouth and you say no more” he said. “It must stop. “
Ruane referred to his tenure as mayor of Sanibel, where he said hundreds of thousands of pounds of dead fish had been collected due to the red tide outbreak in 2018.
“I’m tired. It’s our way of saying, ‘We’ll do what we have to do.’ he said.
Mann called the current political moment film-like “Network” where the character Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, calls on people to scream out the window, “I’m crazy as hell and I won’t take it anymore.”
Mann said the county has been hit by more runoff than anyone and so will be “Until we have a seizure. “
“We are preparing for the long term” he said. “I am okay.”