For the past few weeks, two letters have been dominating discussion on the future of Lake Okeechobee water management - CC.
That's because the Jacksonville District announced recently that Alternative CC would be the preliminary preferred model that would serve as the framework for teh eventual water control plan to manage the lake once rehabilitation work on the Herbert Hoover Dike is complete.
But even with that big news that has everyone talking, it's not the end, said Col Andrew Kelly, the commander of the Jacksonville District. The alternative is a start, but it requires optimization to make it work, and that requires the district to hear from stakeholders.
“This was an important decision cap-stoning two-plus years of work to get to this point,” said Kelly during a public webinar July 19. “We have to figure out how to guide the optimization so we can get the best we can out of the plan while keeping the parts that make alternative CC our best solution.”
Kelly stressed that it was going to take a lot more work to make the preliminary choice a full-fledged water control plan, and that was going to require a lot of input from stakeholders. That began with a conference call July 23 with elected officials to discuss the alternative, followed by a lot of travel that took the team from the Gulf Coast to talk about the affects on the communities around the Caloosahatchee River Estuary, to the East Coast to meet with stakeholders concerned about releases to the St. Lucie River and water supply for Palm Beach County, back to the Lakeside communities to discuss water supply for communities and businesses around the lake along with navigation and recreation concerns, and finally a meeting in Miami to talk with stakeholders about how CC impacts the Everglades and eventually Florida Bay.
Joining Kelly on the trip were numerous Jacksonville District staff who have been working hard for over two years to get the water right, including the senior project manager for LOSOM, Tim Gysan. He highlighted the importance of getting input from all the stakeholders and partners who are affected by decisions about Lake Okeechobee water management.
“When you’re talking about a resource like Lake Okeechobee that affects so many people and so many communities count on, it’s important to ensure you’re getting input from everybody,” Gysan told news reporters during the road show. “It’s an extremely important resource to a lot of people in our state.”
With the road show complete, the work isn't done. The district continues to gather information from the product delivery team and the public, and plans on having another decision later in August on the final preferred alternative that will be optimized using the input from stakeholders.
One thing for sure, Kelly said, is that once optimized, the water control plan for LOSOM would be a vast improvement over the current regulation schedule.
"I see a system that is more resilient because of LOSOM," said Kelly during a meeting in Palm Beach July 27. "I think the future's pretty bright, not only for this area but for Florida in general."