Corps to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee

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FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.- As Lake Okeechobee’s water levels rise, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to increase flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries beginning Friday.

The new target flow for the Caloosahatchee is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), the Corps said, up from an average of 2,000 (cfs) the previous week.

“The lake has jumped three quarters of a foot since it hit its low for the year last week,” said Col. Jason Kirk, district commander for the Army Corps in Jacksonville.

The lake is up 0.74 feet since hitting its 2016 low of 13.64 on May 17, the Corps said.

The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as it deems necessary. Water at Fort Myers Beach turned a murky brown in February during the last round of heightened releases, stirring controversy.

“When I see that brownish stain coming in, it just saddens me, because I know that it’s pollution, basically,” said Laura Hosticka of Fort Myers Beach. “I realize that the water will take care of itself eventually, but I mean, how much can it take? And over how much time?”

The releases could have a positive environmental effect if they curb potentially harmful algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River in Alva near the Franklin Lock and Dam.

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