Don’t let LOSOM get hijacked at the last minute

There’s a heist afoot. But you can do something to stop it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearing the completion of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, the new “playbook” which will govern how the lake is managed for the next decade. The Corps has done a decent job balancing the needs of all stakeholders, and while VoteWater believes more could be done to prevent damaging discharges to the St. Lucie estuary, the process has been transparent and the proposed “playbook” is generally equitable.

But apparently some stakeholders think themselves more equal than others.

In recent weeks “water supply” proponents south of the lake — including Big Sugar — have clamored for more state control over Corps decisions regarding lake management. One South Florida Water Management District official went so far as to say the district “is asking for explicit reliance on the District to guide operational decisions” when the water level in the lake comes within 1.5 feet of what’s called the “Water Shortage Management Band.”

When the lake drops that low, water conservation measures may begin. It’s a legitimate concern. But with its demand for greater state control, water supply advocates are telegraphing a desire to start conserving water well before the lake gets that low.

That, in turn, could inflict yet more devastation on the St. Lucie, on the Caloosahatchee and Lake Worth Lagoon — along with the ecology of the lake itself.

Big Sugar and other agricultural interests need lake water for irrigation. Perhaps they’re worried LOSOM won’t give them everything they want.

But if the state has control, perhaps state officials will be sympathetic to their cause. Perhaps state officials will start conserving water well before the lake hits that water shortage management band, by cutting off beneficial discharges west to the Caloosahatchee and south to the Everglades.

If that happens, it’ll harm the Caloosahatchee and the “River of Grass.” And keeping more water in the lake than necessary during the dry season means once the rains begin, the lake could fill up faster, with high lake levels choking off submerged aquatic vegetation. And ultimately, it could trigger algae-laden discharges to the estuaries — dooming us to yet another “summer of slime.”

But water supply proponents — including Big Sugar — will get everything they want.

At the expense of everyone else.

But you can ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject this call for more state control — and higher lake levels. Use the button below or follow this link to send a letter to Corps officials asking them to stop the LOSOM bait and switch.

We’re not all going to get exactly what we want from the new LOSOM “game plan.” But both the benefits — and the adversity — must be shared more equitably than in the past.