Corps, SFWMD continue work despite ‘social distancing’

WEST PALM BEACH — Work on the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) have continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, Col. Andrew Kelly of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported to the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force at their online May 7 meeting.

He said due to COVID-19, public hearings have moved online and the participation has been good with forums “where we tackled all of the issues,” attracting more than 200 people.

“We are doing great in terms of our public engagement,” he said.

Col. Kelly said the recent dry weather has helped the corps move forward with work on the Kissimmee River Restoration Project ahead of the wet season. “Mother Nature has helped us out there,” he said.

“We are rocking and rolling even with COVID-19 on our backs,” said Drew Bartlett, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. He said some staffers are working from home and others practicing social distancing.

Larry Williams of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said during the COVID-19 pandemic, FWS prioritized keeping wildlife refuges open to the public so they could continue to enjoy the outdoors. “We’re moving right along and adapting with this new way of operating,” he said.

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