County Commission opposes lake level deviation

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Commission Thursday signed off on a letter to Major General Scott Spellmon and Col. Andrew Kelly of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in opposition to the planned deviation to the Lake Okeechobee water control plan.

“We have been engaged stakeholders in south Florida’s water management issues for decades. We understand the United States Corps of Engineers (Corps) is seeking public comment on a planned deviation to the lake’s water control plan,” the letter states.

The letter explains that under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) approved in 2008, which attempts to keep the lake no lower than 12.5 feet, South Florida already experiences periodic water shortages.

“We are gravely concerned because the planned deviation proposes to lower Lake Okeechobee water levels beyond the levels in LORS 2008, discharging water to tide when LORS 2008 calls for conserving the water in the lake. With the possibility that these extreme low lake operations may be in effect until 2022, the lake’s multiple purposes, water supply, fish and wildlife, recreation and navigation, will be compromised,” the letter continues.

“Algae is a complex problem with multiple factors contributing to blooms in Florida and the U.S. But lowering the lake in the dry season, as the deviation proposes, will not solve our algae problem, but can harm our communities from lack of water. South Florida has experienced the severe economic and environmental consequences that have resulted from past droughts caused when the lake was dropped to low levels. We urge you to reconsider this deviation — the negative effects are many and the benefits are questionable.”

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