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Decision on new Lake Okeechobee water management plan delayed until Nov. 16

'We realized we're going to need more time,' Eva Velez with the Army Corps says
Posted at 1:09 PM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 18:04:12-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Army Corps of Engineers has decided to hold off a planned announcement on a new water management program for Lake Okeechobee.

During an online public meeting held Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers said there will be no decision yet.

"After last week's incredible feedback, we realized we're going to need more time," said Eva Velez with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The decision on a final plan for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) has now been pushed back to Nov. 16.

Eva Velez
Eva Velez speaks during an online listening session held Nov. 2, 2021.

Within the last week, Treasure Coast residents, worried over discharges with algae, were shocked when the Corps announced some changes to one management plan.

"There are eight model runs that the Army Corps of Engineers unveiled last week and all eight of them either come close to doubling, or more than double, the discharges compared to that plan CC we saw last summer," said Eve Samples, executive director of Friends of the Everglades.

Samples, who is also on the board of directors for the Rivers Coalition, has been involved with the Corps' plan selection process.

Finding a solution that makes everyone happy from Lake Okeechobee to Florida's east and west coasts hasn't been easy.

It's something the Army Corps readily acknowledges.

Eve Samples
Eve Samples speaks about the upcoming announcement by the Army of Corps of Engineers regarding the management of Lake Okeechobee.

"A lake schedule won't get us everything we want. We need infrastructure for many of our long-term ecosystem restoration goals, but LOSOM will be a major improvement," Velez said.

Concern over discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River has increased over the years because of algae blooms that followed.

In the next two weeks, the Corps is expected to try to formalize a plan, trying to strike a balance to satisfy the concerns of those on the lake and along the rivers and canals.

"I will say the Army Corps of Engineers has been more transparent and inclusive and responsive than I've ever seen them in this LOSOM process," Samples said. "I'll give them kudos for that."

The final decision on the plan is expected to come in two weeks.