In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized its preliminary determination for a brand new operations schedule for Lake Okeechobee generally generally known as LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operations Handbook).
There’s little doubt that the time had come for a brand new schedule, a reality which is underscored by stakeholder participation throughout the area. Sadly, what’s proper for Florida’s water has fallen sufferer to the political posturing that’s typical of our instances — the results of which can probably show consequential to the most important illustration of stakeholders who are sometimes not mentioned: tens of millions of Florida residents, a lot of them residing in Palm Seashore and Broward Counties.
Sadly, Plan CC — now generally known as Col. Kelly’s plan — gained’t be the reply in its present kind. Whereas this plan stops discharges to Martin County, it sends considerably extra discharges to the West Coast, impacting cities like Fort Myers, the place this situation isn’t needed, and likewise stopping water from coming to Palm Seashore and Broward counties the place it’s desperately wanted.
Everyone knows that Lake Okeechobee’s function in our communities is advanced.
For South Florida residents, it stays a supply of water provide: Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Seashore counties instantly connect with the lake in a collection of advanced canal methods which are used to replenish their water for quite a lot of helpful functions; in some instances, giant cities depend upon the lake extra instantly, as is the case with the town of West Palm Seashore.
Native utilities handle these canal methods daily, guaranteeing that every one of us have sufficient water for our on a regular basis wants. Native companies additionally depend upon this water, as do emergency providers.
Then there’s our native atmosphere, the place this freshwater is used to push again towards the realities of a quickly altering local weather. With out Lake Okeechobee to recharge the freshwater within the underground aquifer beneath our shoreline, saltwater would inevitably corrupt our freshwater wells, disrupt our ingesting water, and create a pricey situation for tens of millions.
Communities north of Palm Seashore, comparable to Stuart, are rightfully involved over dangerous discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie estuary. In southwest Florida, communities share related issues, as releases westward to the Caloosahatchee can show equally problematic. Nobody in South Florida is disputing these environmental realities; actually, fairly the other.
Nevertheless, in an effort to promote the Col. Kelly Plan, some — together with Congressman Brian Mast — have tried to downplay the significance of water from Lake Okeechobee for South Floridians.
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Take into account the very actual situation West Palm Seashore residents confronted in 2011, when a pure drought and an absence of water from Lake Okeechobee put our municipal water provide in danger. A lake plan that doesn’t account for these drought years will virtually assure historical past will repeat itself.
When the Military Corps launched their choice of plan CC, many South Florida residents rightly expressed concern that water provide had not been adequately prioritized. In reality, the method South Floridians can anticipate will really sidestep the authorized obligations to guard water provide, and permits administration of the lake to be thought-about on a conditional, 12 months to 12 months foundation. That is vastly problematic, given South Florida’s inhabitants beneficial properties, in addition to the local weather realities that can solely develop worse.
Some haven’t solely accepted plan CC as being truthful and balanced, they’ve gone so far as applauding it — applauding the potential for catastrophe for South Florida’s 7 million residents; for water shortages, saltwater intrusion, and different nightmare situations that the subsequent decade is more likely to carry.
Listed below are the info: Lake Okeechobee is just not a battle between farmers and environmentalists — and it’s not a battle of north vs. south, or east vs. west. These are oversimplifications merely designed to confuse the general public, suppress science, and divide our communities for an inexpensive victory lap. The truth is that none of this must be a battle in any respect — it’s about discovering a wise method to share our most important pure useful resource for generations to come back.
It’s time for the Military Corps and Col. Andrew Kelly to reexamine the water provide wants of tens of millions of residents. And it’s time for us to be intellectually sincere about what’s proper, finest, and truthful for all communities.
Ryan Rossi, Boca Raton, is director of the South Florida Water Coalition.