On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and the South Florida Water Management District Board of Directors on a visit to Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers to observe current conditions.
This visit comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works to finalize a new water control manual, the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual for Lake Okeechobee.
The Governor urged the U.S. Army Corps to improve lake management to make more beneficial releases and send more water south during Florida’s dry season and to allow for flexibility to avoid harmful discharges in Florida’s northern estuaries.
Additionally, DeSantis joined Florida’s bi-partisan congressional delegation in calling on the Biden administration to invest $725 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration to ensure critical Everglades restoration projects are completed as expeditiously as possible.
“In Florida, we are doing our part to expedite Everglades restoration projects and restore the flow of water south from Lake Okeechobee. Under my administration, we have expedited the EAA Reservoir Project, begun constructing the Stormwater Treatment Area 12 months ahead of schedule, and invested over $2 billion in water quality and Everglades funding,” said Governor DeSantis. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing a new water control manual for Lake Okeechobee, and they must allow flexibility in the management to avoid harmful discharges in our estuaries and send more water south during Florida’s dry season. Status quo lake management is not an option.”
“I appreciate Governor DeSantis’ leadership to call for improved Lake Okeechobee management by the Corps and increased funding for Everglades restoration,” said Chauncey Goss, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District and a resident of Sanibel. “We’ve seen firsthand the impact that harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges have on Floridians’ lives and businesses. The status quo of lake management that views our estuary communities as dumping grounds for excess water cannot continue. While Florida prioritizes moving water south to the Everglades and away from our estuaries, the U.S. Army Corps must ensure Lake Okeechobee management supports our ongoing Everglades restoration efforts while avoiding harmful estuary discharges.”
“Local economies have been crippled by inequitable water management for decades. Through this LOSOM process, it’s imperative that the Corps develops a plan that represents and benefits all stakeholders, including the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. To do that, the Corps has to improve the current release schedule and prioritize sending more water south—especially during the dry season to the Everglades and the environment—to reduce harmful discharges to the coasts during the wet season. Governor DeSantis fully understands this need to incorporate our taxpayer-funded water infrastructure into benefiting all Floridians and the natural resources, and we applaud his demand to the Corps to include those priorities in LOSOM,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, Executive Director of Captains for Clean Water.