Army Corps wants ‘immediate’ changes to Lake Okeechobee management


Changes in how Lake Okeechobee is managed are in such an “immediate” need that the Army Corps of Engineers is rushing through rule amendments without public comment — a hastiness that has raised concerns about potential water shortages in Palm Beach County.

The changes to 11-year-old federal guidelines that regulate lake levels are necessary to avoid harmful algae blooms in northern estuaries, according to an internal Corps letter that was circulated among Palm Beach County Commissioners on Monday.

Melissa Nasuti, of the Corps’ planning and policy division, said in the July 10 letter that “due to the nature and immediate need for this deviation, we are not able to solicit public comment prior to signature.”

This year, the Corps used special flexibility to release water from Lake Okeechobee during the dry season in an effort to reduce lake levels so that discharges wouldn’t be needed during summer months when algae is more likely to be present.

The move drew backlash from Glades-area communities, agriculture interests and county and municipal water managers concerned draining the lake too much would leave them with water shortages if there was a drought.

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