Steube Defends Florida Agriculture at South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Meeting on Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual
OKEECHOBEE, FLA. – U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R-Fla.) today delivered remarks to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board meeting regarding the planning of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).
“Protecting Lake Okeechobee is vital to ensuring that people who depend on the Lake have access to safe and reliable drinking water and that our agriculture industries around the Lake have the adequate water for their crops to feed our state and our nation,” Steube said. “Agriculture is one of the three largest drivers to Florida’s economy and any negative impact to agriculture will affect the entire state’s economy. Many of those families have farmed for generations and a Lake regulation schedule that does not take into account their legitimate needs would harm Floridians.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working with SFWMD to update LOSOM, which will result in new operating procedures for Lake Okeechobee. The update will take into account additional infrastructure to be completed by 2022, including the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, Kissimmee River Restoration Project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir and C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area.
There have been several different proposals for changes to LOSOM, with some advocating for drastically lowering Lake Okeechobee levels. As Steube laid out in his remarks, this would have significant detrimental effects for District 17’s Lakeside and farming communities.
Specifically, Steube pointed out that the 17th Congressional District is home to the most citrus producers in the entire country. Many of these groves are located near Lake Okeechobee and rely on the Lake’s water for crop production.
He also expressed concerns over this plan causing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate the Lake outside of its authorized purposes of flood control, water supply, navigation, and preservation of fish and wildlife. Further, as Steube said, changes to the Lake level would result in damage to the critical habitat of animals and vegetation that is vital to the health of Lake Okeechobee.
Additionally, if Lake levels were drastically lowered, more frequent closures of locks and navigation routes are possible. This would have a negative effect on Lakeside communities who depend on their access to the Lake.
Steube has long supported a science-based approach to updating LOSOM and advocates for working with all groups, including those Lakeside and in Florida’s robust agriculture industry, to find a solution that benefits all stakeholders. In June, Steube wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging against lowering the Lake levels due to the concerns over the negative effects for farming community. He also warned against politicizing the LOSOM update process.