Captains For Clean Water efforts integral in securing new plan to reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges in SWFL
17 November 2021
Army Corps announces significantly improved lake operations plan
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced the long-awaited final plan for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), the rulebook that will dictate lake discharges for the next decade.
The model run they’ve selected to move forward with will significantly improve water distribution in south Florida compared to current lake operations and will help reduce harmful algal blooms like red tide and blue-green algae.
The plan is estimated to:
Reduce lake-triggered harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee River by 37%
Reduce total flood control releases from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River by 37%
Send over 3 times more water south to the Everglades
This selected model run will serve as the framework that the Corps will use to develop the actual manual (‘verbs and nouns’ as they say) that will govern how the water in Lake Okeechobee is controlled for the next decade.
Project Manager Tim Gysan said, “However, there is still a lot more work to do, and we ask everyone to continue to stay engaged with us. We will continue developing and evaluating the operational guidance that accompanies the schedule and will bring the two pieces together with the rollout of the final preferred alternative lake operational plan in mid-December, and your feedback is critical as we move through these next steps.”
The new LOSOM plan will go into effect at the end of 2022.
Captains For Clean Water (CFCW) has been intimately involved in the LOSOM process since the beginning with one goal — to influence the outcome of LOSOM so that more water flows south to the Everglades and Florida Bay and that, to the extent possible, damaging flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are minimized.
With the positive LOSOM announcement, the team at Captains For Clean Water is proclaiming this a success in their mission to restore and protect Florida’s waters.
The entire staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District office, beginning with Colonel Andrew Kelly, and now Colonel James Booth, made sure the entire process was transparent and collaborative allowing and encouraging stakeholder feedback every step of the way.
Captains For Clean Water took advantage of this opportunity to unite stakeholders around a shared goal and generate massive public engagement in support of this goal and public interest.
CFCW Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Jessica Pinsky said, “Ensuring a favorable LOSOM outcome has truly been a tireless, yet united, effort by thousands of our partners, supporters, and passionate people across the country. Fishing guides, tourism-related businesses, and the entire outdoor community stepped up and stood with us through this process. Now, we are proud to see the result of our collective hard work translate to clean and usable waterways for all of Florida’s residents and visitors. This is why Captains For Clean Water exists!”
Capt. Chris Wittman, CFCW Director of Outreach and Engagement, explained the importance of the outdoor industry getting involved with LOSOM, “Together with chambers of commerce, environmental groups, and the outdoor industry — including our brand partners like YETI, Costa, Hell’s Bay Boatworks, SeaDek, Mustad, Orvis, and others — we sent letters to the Corps and met with policymakers at the Capitol in Washington DC. These voices represent economic impact and that carries weight with decision makers.”
CFCW rallied stakeholders and supporters to stay engaged with the process through education and awareness campaigns, public comment, social media engagement, several call-to-action opportunities, and hosted Colonel Kelly on multiple occasions.
Alycia Downs, CFCW Director of Education and Awareness, expanded on the reach and digital impact the organization was able to achieve, “We reached 16.5 million unique people with educational content this year through social media alone and provided an outlet for 25,000 of our supporters to take action by emailing the Army Corps. Our team has invested countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears into bringing public engagement into the LOSOM process. We brought thousands of our supporters to the table and they spoke up loudly — not once, but time and time again. Today’s good news is proof that, when everyone works together, we can fix these water issues.”
When asked what the LOSOM announcement means for Florida’s water resources, CFCW Executive Director Captain Daniel Andrews explains, “Since the founding of our organization in 2016, Captain For Clean Water has advocated for equitable treatment and distribution of the outflows from Lake Okeechobee. We believe that the model run chosen by the Corps is the best possible plan for all the stakeholders, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and the state of Florida. This plan goes a long way toward accomplishing that equitable distribution of benefits and impacts throughout the entire water management system.”
Andrews cites the Army Corps’ openness to stakeholder feedback as the catalyst for this success, “On behalf of the united voice of our anglers, fishing guides, boat captains, industry-related businesses, and the entire outdoor recreational community across the country, we are grateful to Colonel Kelly, Colonel Booth, and the entire staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District office for allowing Captains For Clean Water and our supporters to become active and welcome participants in the adoption of a new and equitable LOSOM water management process.”
Captains For Clean Water is a Florida-based 501(c)3 grassroots nonprofit on a mission to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems for the use and enjoyment of all. Founded by fishing guides, CFCW has united the outdoor industry, business community, and concerned citizens at the frontlines of the fight for clean water — the lifeblood of Florida’s economy and $85.9 billion tourism industry. http://www.captainsforcleanwater.org