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Army Corps of Engineers addresses Lake Okeechobee management

Army Corps watches Lake O level with rain on way
Posted at 4:55 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 18:37:32-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Army Corps of Engineers provided an update Monday on how and when they plan to release water from Lake Okeechobee in the future.

Those releases have led to toxic algae blooms in the past.

There were no massive algae blooms visible on the surface of Lake Okeechobee Monday, but algae is still there.

A dry May from mother nature has meant a lack of lake water releases into the St. Lucie Estuary this summer.

Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers talked about setting up a new LOSOM plan.

That’s the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, the how, when, and where water will be released in the future from the lake.

Colonel Andrew Kelly outlining the Corps will do what it can to move water south and monitor algae beyond the summertime.

“With a significant bloom in May, that wasn’t in our modeling but we know algae can appear at any time,” said Col. Kelly.

What was referred to as “Alternative CC” will now be the foundation for the Corps' preferred direction.

John Maehl, head of Ecosystem Restoration for Martin County says if the current proposal had been in place over the previous 50 years, the St. Lucie Estuary would have received discharges less than 4 percent of the time.

“Almost certainly we wouldn’t have had 2013, 2016, or 2018,” said Maehl, citing past toxic algae blooms.

Maehl is cautiously optimistic as lake discharges to the east would be reduced by about two-thirds.

“Increasing releases to the St. Lucie Estuary would be their last resort. We would have loved to see that it was not an option, but it appears to be on the table but as a last resort,” said Maehl.

The Army Corps will continue to tweak the plans through October.

The goal is to have that new LOSOM plan ready to go when the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation work is complete at the end of 2022.