It’s possible to eliminate toxic discharges to the St. Lucie River entirely. The Army Corps of Engineers’ own modeling has demonstrated so. That’s big news for the estuary that suffers harm from any level of lake releases — and we need your help to make it a reality.

Lake Okeechobee discharges have wreaked havoc on downstream ecosystems, crushed local businesses and statewide tourism, and sparked national conversation about the devastating human health consequences associated with harmful algal bloom exposure.

We shouldn’t settle for anything less than a new Lake Okeechobee management plan that eliminates toxic discharges to the northern estuaries. The Army Corps is giving us another chance to fight for that.

What about the Caloosahatchee? A management plan that ends discharges to the St. Lucie River doesn’t have to mean it will hurt the rest of the system. It’s important to remember that the ecological makeup of the Caloosahatchee estuary is different from the St. Lucie. The Caloosahatchee is dependent on the lake for dry-season Lake O flows, which help balance salinity levels in the delicate estuary. Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation reports optimal dry-season flows to the Caloosahatchee as 750–2,100 cubic feet per second. The St. Lucie on the other hand never benefits from any Lake O water. The Army Corps’ development of a new lake plan — the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) — is an opportunity to fight for lake management that balances the environmental need for enough water to the Caloosahatchee with the human health implications that come with too much water. The new management schedule should aim to prioritize optimal flows of clean freshwater to the places that need it — west and south — when they need it, instead of wasting it to tide in places that are hurt by it.

As the Corps enters the home stretch on LOSOM, it wants to hear from you. The Corps is hosting an online public meeting Feb. 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. This is your chance to demand zero discharges to the St. Lucie and continued flexible and adaptive management of flows to the Caloosahatchee. Tune in online at usace1.webex.com or call in by phone at (844) 800-2712. The dial in access code is 199 737 9512. The password is 1234.

Can’t make the meeting? If you’d prefer to send written comments, you can email them to Lisa.E.Aley@usace.army.mil until Feb. 18.