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The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has appointed Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera and Dr. James Fourqurean to an independent scientific review panel to help inform the next Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).

The South Florida landscape provides flood protection and water supply. Lake Okeechobee is the primary location for surface water storage in this system. Regulated and managed, in large part, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the SFWMD provides information relevant to the lake’s management.

Lake Okeechobee

The USACE and SFWMD are considering alternative regulation schedules which consider the tradeoffs between the health of the lake, estuaries, Everglades, flood control and water supply.

Areas like the St. Lucie Estuary, Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the Florida Everglades are affected by large deviations in the quantity and quality of freshwater delivered during a pre-engineered time period. The review panel will identify missing information needed to assess the impacts of proposed changes.

Historically, no water flowed from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie on the East Coast, and only a small amount of water flowed to the Caloosahatchee on the West Coast. Part of the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project authorized in 1948, the system was engineered with two large canals that now can carry large volumes of water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Obeysekera, director of the  Sea Level Solutions Center,  and Fourqurean, director of the Center for Coastal Oceans Research, will help facilitate the interdisciplinary review to acquire and synthesize available technical literature and data to develop the next LORS.

Both centers — integral parts of the Institute of Water and Environment — focus on mitigating climate change through conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems. They join members of the University of Florida Water Institute to consider how climate change, climate variability and sea level rise could impact tradeoffs.