Corps considers changes to lake schedule; Public meetings planned in Okeechobee and Clewiston

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District invites the public to provide scoping input on the development of the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). A series of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public scoping meetings will be held throughout south Florida during the month of February and public scoping comments will be accepted until March 31, 2019.

“At this point in the process, it is critical we hear about concerns and priorities from the public,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Deputy Commander for South Florida. “What issues are important to you? What study outcomes do you want to see? How would you measure success? What solutions would you like us to consider? These are some of the important questions we need to explore, and we want to hear your thoughts.”

“This series of public scoping meetings in south Florida is just the beginning of the process. There will be many other opportunities to become engaged and informed, including two series of workshops and opportunities to review the draft documents,” said Reynolds. “We look forward to working with the many people and groups who have expressed interest, and hope to get even more people involved during this robust public process. We value their time and suggestions, and appreciate their contributions.”

The Corps is beginning preparation of a NEPA assessment for the LOSOM, which is required by Section 1106 of the 2018 Water Resource Development Act.
The purpose of this effort is to reevaluate and define operations for the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule that take into account additional infrastructure that will soon be operational. The additional infrastructure that will be taken into consideration includes the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, Kissimmee River Restoration Project, as well as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir and C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area.

This effort will result in a System Operating Manual that will include a new lake regulation schedule that addresses the congressionally authorized purposes that include flood risk management; water supply for agricultural irrigation, municipalities and industry, environment, and Native American Tribes; navigation; enhancement of fish and wildlife; and recreation. The process will be informed by public workshops to set goals and objectives, develop and evaluate alternatives (operational scenarios), and NEPA to incorporate CERP projects that will be completed in the near future. Information gained during recent extreme high and low water levels and harmful algal blooms will also be considered. The intent of the new lake regulation schedule is to balance the impacts from operations and achieve multiple authorized project purposes.

Members of the public are invited to provide scoping comments, including the identification of issues with the current regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee, what aspects need to be changed, and how those issues and changes should be implemented and evaluated.

Members of the public and other stakeholders are invited to learn more and provide input to the team at the following series of public scoping meetings:

• Lehigh Acres: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m., in the Lee County Mosquito Control District Training Center 15191 Homestead Road, Lehigh Acres, FL 33971;

• Okeechobee: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, 6 – 8 p.m., in the Indian River State College Williamson Conference and Education Center, 2229 N.W. 9th Avenue, Okeechobee, FL 34972.

• Clewiston: Monday, Feb.11, 2019, 6 to 8 p.m., in John Boy Auditorium, 1200 South W.C. Owen Ave, Clewiston, FL 33440;

• Stuart: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m., in Indian River State College’s Clare and Gladys Wolf High-Technology Center, 2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997;

• Broward County: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, place and time to be announced:

• West Palm Beach: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, 6 to 8 p.m. in the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Auditorium, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33406;

• Miami Gardens: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the North Dade Regional Library. 2455 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33056.

The Corps believes this effort will benefit significantly from public involvement and encourages participation in the NEPA scoping process. The Corps welcomes your views, comments, concerns, suggestions and solutions. Scoping comments may be provided during public meetings, via email or by mail.
The public comment period ends on March 31, 2019.

Submit comments by email to:
• LakeOComments@usace.army.mil

Submit comments by mail to:
• Dr. Ann Hodgson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019.

The Lake Okeechobee News is published every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and now includes news from around the lake every Wednesday.

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