LOSOM is a component of the Central & Southern Florida System Operating Plan and stands for LAKE OKEECHOBEE SYSTEM OPERATION MANUAL. This manual will update Lake Okeechobee operations including discharge amounts and timing to the estuaries.
When Ed told me he was going to take the Maverick out this morning, I decided it was a good time for me to document the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual. This very technical process has been well reported but remains difficult to understand. Today, I will share a few slides from a recent South Florida Water Management District Meeting on the subject for those who may wish to catch up and for purposes of documentation.
Tomorrow, July 19, 2021, at 1:30 pm the Army Corp of Engineers will announce what they call their “preferred plan” for a new lake schedule referred to as LOSOM. This is very exciting yet stressful, and numerous people have been working on this for years. Even with the announcement, the new lake schedule will not be implemented until 2023 as this slide from SFWMD’s Jennifer Reynold’s displays.
Although many are talking about “enhanced” plans, the Army Corp will be choosing one published plan to begin their “balancing process.” You can view an overview of the plans below. Different stakeholders like different plans depending on their positions. The St Lucie stakeholders have rallied around Plan CC “with enhancements.” At the most recent SFWMD governing board meeting another plan based on CC, entitled S.R. 3.5 was used as an example of how to “optimize” the CC plan. You can watch the meeting here to see the presentations and discussions.
In the end, there was discussion about the 3.5 model (positive and negative) but board members supported the policy considerations and “direction” the SFWMD was headed. Please watch the meeting video above for specific comments. (Only 8 hours!) For tomorrow, the main thing is to keep one’s eyes on the above charts, as those are the charts the Army Corp will be referring to to chose a “preferred plan” as the process for “balance”‘ continues. The Army Corps next step after choosing a preferred plan is to travel around for a “listening tour.” So be sure to look for announcements of their visit to your area.
Back to the slides!
Here are the SFWMD governing board policy considerations building upon Alternative CC. Note algae blooms are now a consideration.
Both Governor DeSantis and the SFWMD put forth statements earlier in the year for the goals of LOSOM. All were big shift in favor of the environment.
As this contentious process continues, we must recognize how much progress has been made for the estuaries. Never before have the estuaries had such a central seat at the table. This will certainly translate into improvements!
Thank you to the Army Corp of Engineers for this remarkable LOSOM NEPA environmental process. I look forward to your decision tomorrow and the continuation of an optimized plan that we can all be proud of.
-Lake Okeechobee’s northwestern shoreline on a beautiful day, 2020. Photo Ed Lippisch and Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch“LOSOM.” Sounds rather ominous doesn’t it?
You may have heard the acronym recently and wanted to get involved. Today, I will try to simplify the major aspects of LOSOM best known as the “Lake Okeechobee System Operation Manual,” by splitting the process into three sections, past, present and future. It is my hope that this helps the everyday-person make sense of a complicated process and provides tools for effective advocacy.
Getting involved with LOSOM is about the most important thing we can do to “be a voice for the estuaries” because it means influencing a very complex lake operating system that for years has favored water users at the expense of the estuaries. Over time, priorities change, it is time to be fair, and now is an opportunity to speak-up. This occasion comes along only every decade, or two…
So here we go!
The ACOE’s lake operation systems entail a lot of complicated science, however, one thing we can all understand is lake level. The modern lake regulation schedules began in the 1970s. Outstanding author and scientist, Thomas E. Lodge, states on page 153, in his book, The Everglades Handbook, Fourth Edition :“Since the 1930s, Lake Okeechobee’s water levels, or stages, have been regulated in an effort to balance often conflicting goals.”
The goals/so called benefits of expanding the canal system and draining Florida were the following: 1. Flood control; 2.Land Use (creation of the Everglades Agricultural Area, and more drained land for development throughout the system); 3. Navigation; 4. Fish and Wildlife; 5. Water Supply, and 6. Recreation.
What is not mentioned, nor was considered in times past, is “Health.”
In recent years, poor water quality, due to non-point and point source pollution build-up over many years, has led to large toxic algae blooms on Lake Okeechobee; unfortunately due to irresponsibility and carelessness, it has reached mammoth proportions. When discharged to the estuaries, St Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and the Lake Worth Lagoon (not yet formally considered an “estuary”) local economies, as well as wildlife and human health is threatened to the point of catastrophe.
The NOAA satellite image below shows a cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Okeechobee in July of 2016. Absolutely unbelievable. To deal with this dangerous situation, over the past couple of years, the Army Corp has implemented a Harmful Algae Bloom Deviation. It will more than likely become part of LOSOM.
-Lake O, NOAA satellite image 2016. Table 11.2 below is an excerpt from Dr Lodge’s book and is extremely helpful in understanding the history of the Army Corp of Engineers’ regulation schedules and management of Lake Okeechobee. LOSOM will come next, starting in 2022.
-According to Dr Lodge, a 1913 Corp of Engineers’ report “established the wet season level of Lake O at 20.6 feet NGVD. Seasonal low was 19.2 feet. Since 1913 the lake has multiple canal outlets and is now smaller and enclosed by a dike (1933). Regulation schedules since the 1970s are listed below. CLICK TO ENLARGE TABLE BELOW.
After studying the chart, one can see that we are entering the 6th modern Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule.
As mentioned, right now 1. Flood control (this includes dike and flood water safety); 2. Land Use; 3. Navigation; 4. Fish and Wildlife; 5. Water Supply and 6. Recreation are the goals lake regulation schedules of the past have worked under. But as the HAB deviation tells us, times are changing and priorities must be defined by the times we live in.
Which category do think has priority now? Which one/s had priority in the distant past? Why? Where do you want the priorities in the future? Should there be yet another priority such as health?
Mr Mitnick shared the slide below during this WATER CONDITIONS SUMMARY, which now includes LOSOM. Notice the word “health” is used a lot. Interesting.
The world of LOSOM is a world of scientific models. And it is these scientific models that will help determine the future. The South Florida Water Management District’s expertise as a local sponsor of the Central and Southern Florida Plan puts them in charge of the modeling for the Army Corp of Engineers. Groups of volunteer and experts have been discussing these models since January of 2019. They have narrowed the models down from over 120,000. Now you can jump in too!
Note the numbers to left of each sub-objective or goal. For instance, the number next to “Enhancing ecology in the St Lucie” is 4C. The scientific models that benefit the St Lucie are 4C models. The number next to “Enhancing ecology in the Caloosahatchee” is 4B. The models that benefit the Calooshachee most are 4Bs. The ideal lake operation conditions for these two estuaries are not quite the same. For instance, the St Lucie wants 0 discharges, but the Caloosahatchee needs some discharges due to salinity issues. When the LOSOM process gets to “balancing” these things will have to be worked out along with all the other stakeholder goals and wishes. Get the idea?
So here’s your chance. What is your priority for your water body or other? Of course they are all important but what stands out for you TODAY? 1. Flood control; 2. Land Use; 3. Navigation; 4. Fish and Wildlife; 5. Water Supply; and 6. Recreation and/or 7. Health.
Think Estuaries: St Lucie, Caloosahatcee, Lake Worth Lagoon, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, Lake Okeechobee itself? Once upon a time, Lake Okeechobee was once part of the greatest estuary in the world-our River of Grass!
In the art of negotiating, or “balancing,” as the ACOE calls it, start strong with your first priority. Ask yourself which category has taken a back seat? Maybe you are not pleased with any of them. Which priority should come forward? Perhaps its a combination. You decide!
So where are we in this complicated process? The SFWMD will hold workshops for the board and public in the coming months. But consider getting involved now.
The SFWMD image below shows that we are in the green phase: January 2021-May 2021, where 13 models will be chosen from the 27,000. This is too much to think about. Just focus on your goal. Your number from the above chart.
The yellow rectangle that is so hard to read says: “Iteration 2, Balanced Array of Lake Schedules” (May 2021-July 2021). After July we will enter the orange phase and all of the feedback (advocacy and input) will be “balanced.” Negotiated.
Negotiated in the public arena! When all is said and done, the new lake plan —the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) —will take effect in 2022.
So speak up now! Write the Army Corp, the address is below or better yet, attend Monday’s February 22, 2021 meeting if possible. There will be others, but put your foot in the water now. 🙂
Even though, this has been a relatively complicated post, I hope it has helped simply the LOSOM process: thank you for being a voice for the estuaries and our waters!