It’s been five years since the bill I wrote requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redo the Lake Okeechobee management schedule was signed into law. And it’s been more than two years since the Army Corps announced the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) - Balanced Alternative CC would replace the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS). A new schedule means the Treasure Coast would have to take fewer disgusting discharges from the lake when it gets too high.
But that new system still hasn’t been implemented. That means our community has had to suffer through two additional rainy seasons with more algal blooms and more discharges. And after another federal agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), raised last minute concerns about the impact of the new plan on red tide and sea turtles on the west coast, LOSOM was delayed yet again.
Today, the Army Corps released the latest draft of LOSOM that makes some small clarifications. I’m grateful that, at this point, it’s still an improvement on the status quo for our community. But we’re not totally out of the woods. We’re still waiting for the results of NMFS’ biological consultation, which should be completed by the end of August. As we await those results, the goal is the same: make sure there are no major changes to the plan that could force our community to take on more discharges.
But we can’t let our foot off the gas until we hit the finish line: ending all discharges to the east coast. To meet that goal, we also have to focus on what’s next: fully funding the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir and getting started on the Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan (NERP).
The only acceptable number of discharges for our community and our estuaries is ZERO, and that’s what I’ll be fighting for every day.