Even though it’s not in the news every day, it’s important to stay on top of what’s going on with the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced a 45-day public comment period on the LOSAM Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Comments are due September 12th.
The draft documents and instructions on how to provide comments are available HERE.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is proposing a new regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee within an updated Water Control Plan for Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Agricultural Area. The Water Control Plan is a compilation of operating criteria, guidelines, and the regulation schedule that govern the quantity, timing, and duration of releases out of the lake. The regulation schedule establishes the agency’s operational strategy to meet all congressionally authorized project purposes. Implementation of the regulation schedule corresponds with the completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation and considers completed or nearly completed Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects.
The Draft EIS evaluates an array of alternative Lake Okeechobee regulation schedules and describes and compares their potential environmental effects. The Preferred Alternative was chosen based on the project purposes and objectives. The proposed regulation schedule and WCP would govern releases in portions of Glades, Martin, Palm Beach, Hendry, Lee, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties, Florida. Effects may extend to Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties, Florida.
U.S. Army Corp of Engineer Colonel James Booth: “Since the initial scoping phase in January of 2019, the LOSOM team has made an unprecedented effort to fully inform and engage our partners and the public in the development of a new regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee, within an updated water control plan. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s contribution to this effort, whether they served as members of the Project Delivery Team, provided local knowledge and expertise, shared their perspectives and concerns, provided public comment, or assisted in so many other ways. Everyone’s continued, ongoing engagement with this process has been critically important to our ability to identify an operational strategy that balances our congressionally authorized project purposes. The Draft EIS and Water Control Plan are now available to the public for review, and we are taking formal public comments for the record, both via email and during a series of virtual meetings.”
The Corps is planning to hold several virtual NEPA meetings. Booth said that while all of the NEPA meetings will include the same presentation, the Corps. would like to focus on receiving comments from a specific area around the lake at each meeting. “The focus areas for comments will be on the areas north of the lake, south of the lake, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the St. Lucie Estuary. Everyone is welcome to join us and comment at any or all of our meetings. The intent is to make sure that we have ample time at each meeting to listen to and capture the formal public comments from everyone who wishes to speak. By dividing up the focus areas, we hope to be mindful of the time for both the speakers and others listening in on the call,” Booth said. “Many of the meetings are expected to be scheduled for the evening hours, to accommodate people who work during the day.”
LOSOM Virtual NEPA Meeting Schedule
The Virtual NEPA meetings will be hosted using WebEx:
+1-844-800-2712 US Toll Free
+1-669-234-1177 US Toll
Access code: 199 731 0442
Focus on receiving comments from stakeholders south of Lake Okeechobee
Tuesday August 9, 2022 at 6 p.m.
Focus on receiving comments from stakeholders north of Lake Okeechobee
Wednesday August 10, 2022 at 6 p.m.
Focus on receiving comments from stakeholders west of Lake Okeechobee, including the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary
Tuesday August 16, 2022 at 6 p.m.
Focus on receiving comments from stakeholders east of Lake Okeechobee, including the St. Lucie River and Estuary
Wednesday August 17, 2022 at 6 p.m.
Focus on receiving comments from Government Agencies
Thursday August 18, 2022 at 10 a.m.