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Moving How Much Water, Where, When: A new Guide for Lake Okeechobee

WGCU, June 10, 2024

There is a lot to unpack in the Army Corps' new plan for managing Lake Okeechobee’s water level, including details on when the floodgates will be opened to lower the lake level, how much and where that water will be sent, and how much less polluted it might be.

The Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, called LOSOM by many, is as much a document with parameters and rules for water releases as it is a philosophy of fairly sharing in the benefits of the improvements to the Everglades.

Lake Okeechobee has been polluted with nitrogen and phosphorus from Big Sugar operations along its shores for decades, as well as runoff containing that and a lot more from the metropolitan Orlando area via the Kissimmee River.

Should everything go according to the new plan, there will be few releases of the polluted lake water east into the St. Lucie River, which empties into the already-polluted Indian River Lagoon near Stuart, and smaller, beneficial amounts of water released west into the Caloosahatchee River instead of sustained surges of billions of gallons of water a day for months at a time.

When filtering reservoirs are completed to the south of the lake, clean and clear water will flow down toward Florida Bay at the southern tip of the peninsula, restoring at least some of the natural flow of the River of Grass.

“For the first time the lake will be operated equitably,” said Steve Davis, chief science officer for the Everglades Foundation. “All interests are considered including the high-volume discharges to the estuaries, which we want to reduce as much as possible. We also want to send more water south to the Everglades in addition to, of course, meeting water supply needs around the Lake Okeechobee service area."


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