Island stakeholders react to the LOSOM plan | News, Sports, Jobs – SANIBEL-CAPTIVA
The selection of the US Army Corps of Engineers for the final plan to guide the Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual received high praise – with some concerns remaining – from stakeholders on the island.
On November 16, Jacksonville District Commander Col. James L. Booth announced the racing model that will serve as the framework for the new water control plan. The Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual, or LOSOM, will replace the current Lake Okeechobee Regulatory Schedule, or LORS 2008, and guide how the lake is managed for the next decade. The plan also determines the volume and timing of water releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucia estuaries and the Everglades.
“The Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual is arguably the most important water management effort we are working on in Central and South Florida for next year.” Booth said in a statement Nov. 16. âWe spent two years developing and working to achieve LOSOM’s goals. All of these goals boil down to one basic idea: we need to improve the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule under which we have been operating since 2008. â
He called the plan âA significant improvement over 2008 LORS at all levels. “
According to a statement released Nov. 18 by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, a stakeholder, the plan is expected to improve conditions in Caloosahatchee by:
– Capping of regulatory lake flows in the operational band (zone D) at 2,000 cubic feet per second (ft3 / s) measured at Franklin Lock (S-79). In measuring flows at S-79, the Corps must take into account the freshwater flows of the Caloosahatchee watershed when determining how much water can be released from the lake.
– Reduce stressful and damaging lake-derived discharge events in the Caloosahatchee by 63 percent and 56 percent, respectively.
– Increase the time during which the Caloosahatchee receives optimal flows (750 cfs to 2,100 cfs) by 30% compared to the future without (NA25) reference.
– Reduce the total regulatory releases in Caloosahatchee by 3% compared to the NA25 benchmark.
– Allow beneficial flows to the Caloosahatchee up to the water shortage management strip of the lake schedule. This will ensure that the Caloosahatchee receives beneficial flows even when conditions are dry and lake levels are low.
The SCCF noted that the plan will also significantly improve the performance of the St. Lucia Estuary and the Everglades. It will reduce total regulatory discharges to the St. Lucia River by 37% and reduce stressful and damaging discharges by 78% and 74%, respectively. The plan will triple the amount of water that can be sent south to the Everglades and Florida Bay, reducing the potential for damaging spills in coastal estuaries.
âWhile the plan will improve the performance of estuaries and Everglades, it is expected to keep lake levels higher more frequently, which could impact the ecology of Lake Okeechobee. However, the Corps will have flexibility in the plan to periodically improve lake conditions using lake recovery periods, â the SCCF reported.
“Overall, the plan is a significant improvement for most parts of the water management system”, it continued. âHowever, we remain concerned with the Corps plan to implement a water conservation mode component into the plan. This would primarily benefit the agricultural water supply and could result in reduced freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee and Everglades when lake levels are low. This is an issue that we will continue to monitor closely as the Corps develops operational directions for the plan. “
Along with the SCCF, the City of Sanibel and its Natural Resources Department are deeply engaged in evaluating the modeling data and providing recommendations to the Corps throughout the process.
âWe are relieved that the chosen plan shows a marked improvement over current conditions for the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucia and the Everglades. The Caloosahatchee River and Estuary will benefit from a significant increase in the number of days when the flow is within the optimal range and from fewer days of noxious flow, whether too low or too high â, Natural Resources Director Holly Milbrandt said.
âThe trade-off for these advantages is an increase in the number of days during which the flow exceeds 6,500 cfs at S-79 (Franklin lock and dam). Flows of this magnitude can cause extreme damage to the estuary and our economy, so it will be important that we continue to work with the Corps to address this concern â, she added.
Mayor Holly Smith said the city’s engagement in the process is “far from over.”
âWe are really encouraged by the Corps announcement. It was a very long and complex process for all the stakeholders â, she said. âIt is clear that the Corps has made a concerted effort to meet its optimization goals and has selected a plan that shows significant improvements for the Caloosahatchee and achieves better balance throughout the system. “
On December 13, the Corps will hold another project implementation team meeting to provide a more in-depth assessment of the selected plan. It still has to develop operational guidelines that translate the modeling into a water control plan that will be adaptable to the conditions exploited in Florida.
The SCCF indicated that stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide their input.