As you may have heard, the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual is the hot topic of the summer on Florida Bay. We represented the voices of Monroe County at the June 29th South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Workshop on LOSOM and provided the following comments to the board:
It is worth overstating that much of the water that is subject to LOSOM historically belonged to the southern Everglades and Florida Bay. That our solution and rallying cry at Florida Bay Forever of ‘sending the water south’ is a phrase that is actually a product of the current water management system in place in South Florida and that, before LORS08, before the Central & South Florida Project, and before the Herbert Hoover Dike, clean water was never sent from Lake Okeechobee, but its movement was dictated by the annual hydroperiod and pulled by gravity toward the southern Everglades and ultimately, Florida Bay.
I know you are well aware of this, but I urge all of you to remember this history, that of the district and ecosystem you represent, as you consider your position on LOSOM. That means that an equitable plan for Lake Okeechobee must prioritize ecology and water supply, especially in the dry season, to the southern Everglades, Florida Bay, and the residents of Monroe County. This is a way to safeguard the health of some of our most wild and pristine places that support everything from our economy to drinking water in the Florida Keys. While the flow of water to Florida Bay has been altered irrevocably, LOSOM provides the opportunity to restore some of what we have lost through current and future operations of the lake, which will only be augmented as we see more CERP infrastructure and storage come online.
Board members, capitalize on this moment, evaluate all of the amazing information that staff has provided you today and use your position to advocate now for the most equitable plan that has the potential to send the most water south, for Florida Bay, and the residents of the 16 counties you represent which we at Florida Bay Forever believe is a modified and optimized CC plan which includes the elimination of the beneficial use band.