SWFL clean water advocates hear federal proposal for Lake Okeechobee operations

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
An aerial image of Lake Okeechobee in July 2020. Credit: WINK News.

A new plan is up for discussion to help fishing on Lake Okeechobee while also alleviating algal blooms in the state. One of the ultimate goals is to improve the water quality for folks on and around the lake.

It’s not one size fits all when it comes to solutions for Lake Okeechobee, but officials managing the lake are working toward the best-case scenario for everyone.

“We have a balanced array that we can optimize to get the best benefits for everybody,” said Col. Andrew Kelly with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

We joined Daniel Andrews of Captains for Clean Water Monday to listen in as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its preferred plan (Plan CC) for the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).

“Plan CC, across the board, showed the best, both the best amount of shared adversity as well as opportunities to make changes in a positive direction,” said Andrews, the co-found and executive director of the nonprofit.

The hope is to enhance the ecology of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, Lake Okeechobee releases and Everglades ecology.

“Nobody should have seen this as a silver bullet,” Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said.

Southwest Florida clean water advocates believe there is room for improvement and still too much water coming our way.

“What CC does that we don’t like, is it, as it stands right now, it increases the, especially the stressful discharges, not the big mass of discharges, but it increases the number of days that we’re just getting a little bit more water than what we want,” Andrews explained.

The plan also allows for higher water levels on Lake Okeechobee.

The Corps doesn’t like it going over 15 and a half feet, but under this plan, it could go up to 17 feet.

In August, the Corps will formalize its decision, accept feedback and make revisions. It likely won’t go into effect until November 2022.

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