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Split growing over Lake O release plans

This discussion raising eyebrows across the state
Glades residents concerned about rising Lake O
Posted at 7:02 PM, Sep 21, 2021

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In November, the Army Corps of Engineers will announce its revised version of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual or “LOSOM”.

For the next decade, it will determine when, where, and how much freshwater from the lake is sent out.

Most environmentalists who live east or west of Lake Okeechobee would agree that one of the best ways to improve water quality is to get more Lake O water headed south. However, in the future when there are discharges needed east or west, that’s when residents on both coasts have their differences.

At last week’s Collier County Commission meeting, commissioners agreed to send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers with their concerns over the latest plans on managing Lake Okeechobee releases.

“I think this is not going to be cured when the West Coast i.e, the Caloosahatchee gets all the releases, and the east coast doesn’t get any,” said Commission Chair Penny Taylor.

The letter getting support from Audubon Florida.

“The fact that the St. Lucie side of the state is going to be held harmless in this reiteration, we should call that out,” said Brad Cornell with Audubon Florida.

This discussion raising eyebrows across the state.

“It’s concerning to see specifically one group of stakeholders would be calling for damages to another group of stakeholders,” said Martin County Ecosystems Manager John Maehl.

Maehl has been working with the Corps for three years as it has been developing its new operating system.

The plan now being refined, known as Alternative CC, would reduce discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary by about 62-percent or 47-billion gallons.

“The most frustrating part is when you hear them say that the Caloosahatchee is getting all the harm and St. Lucie is getting none of the harm. That’s just not true,” said Maehl.

Maehl says he’s still cautiously optimistic the Army Corps will honor the process and stick to the plan as selected.