Army Corps Seek Input, Lake O Releases

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is seeking public input on a proposed change to the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) that will allow the Corps to deviate from the LORS schedule of water releases to address harmful algae blooms. They are accepting comments from August 6 – 21. Comments may be mailed to Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers, 701 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175 or emailed to Melissa.a.nasuti@usace.army.mil

In order to make these changes the USACE must approve an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) related to the changes to LORS.

The changes would allow the USACE more flexibility, allowing them to release more water when algae blooms are not present on the lake and less when there are blooms on the lake. The USACE press release of August 6 stated, “The goal is to release the same net amount of water as would have been released following LORS guidance, but to attempt to minimize risks posed when algal blooms are present.”

The USACE proposal would also allow maximum releases south under certain conditions. The proposed flexibility would be maintained until the 2008 LORS is replaced with a new water control plan, Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) estimated to be complete in 2022.

The larger releases before rainy season would allow greater flexibility so that less water would need to be released when HABs are present in the lake or estuaries.

HAB operations could be utilized if an HAB is in or anticipated in Lake O, the Caloosahatchee River, St. Lucie River or Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie estuaries, if the state declares a state of emergency due to an HAB in any of those locations or if an HAB has occurred and caused harm or has impacted public safety during the past 18 months within those areas.

Coastal residents are urged to contact the USACE and support the EA and FONSI related to the proposed LORS changes that will allow the flexibility to alter Lake O releases to manage harmful algae blooms. Mail comments by August 21 to Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers, 701 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175 or send via email to Melissa.a.nasuti@usace.army.mil

The full USACE press release with links to the EA and FONSI can be found at bit.ly/LORSchange