Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual Nearing the Finish Line

Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in the southeastern United States, providing habitat for the Everglade Snail Kite, wading birds, and countless other species of plants, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. It is of utmost importance to manage its operations to achieve balanced outcomes for all communities and the lake itself.

After years of research, drafting, and comment, the implementation of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is on the horizon. Audubon Florida staff have contributed to the manual and commented on the benefits and potential pitfalls of the new operations plan for Lake Okeechobee, but overall see LOSOM as a positive departure from the previous plan, the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, which has been in effect since 2008.


Lake Okeechobee is the liquid heart of the Everglades. The goal of the new plan is to meet the needs of all those that rely on its water, including the environment, while incorporating flexibility and minimizing harm — particularly to the northern estuaries. Though not yet finalized, the draft schedule emphasizes sending more water to the southern Everglades, reducing discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary, and improving water flow to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

In line with Audubon’s suggestions, LOSOM will allow water managers to respond in real time to changing conditions — including unpredictable weather. The schedule aims to reach equitable outcomes for all, incorporating processes to allow the lake to recover from harmful events when necessary. The Army Corps of Engineers has been inclusive and transparent during the entire LOSOM process and Audubon has been grateful for the opportunity to provide input at various stages.

Overall, Audubon is pleased to see the draft schedule moving forward. We will continue to work with the Corps and other partners to ensure the best possible Lake Okeechobee plan is finalized in the spring, advocating for good stewardship of the lake itself and optimizing its overall health.

This article was published in the Fall 2022 State of the Everglades report.

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