US Army Corps of Engineers reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee

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Aerial footage of Lake Okeechobee on Aug. 13, 2018
Aerial footage of Lake Okeechobee on Aug. 13, 2018. Credit: WINK News.

The Army Corps announced Thursday a new schedule that reduces the flow from Lake Okeechobee. Instead, they say most of the water running down the Caloosahatchee River will be rain runoff from up-river.

“Less freshwater releases from Lake O is always a good thing, right, because that means less compounding effects of freshwater on the coast,” said Florida Gulf Coast University professor Serge Thomas.

With more rain in the forecast, Thomas says it could actually break this blue-green alga up.

“Dilution of nutrients there will be less growing, cooler conditions were moving into the winter and less sunlight and rainwater is also cool,” Thomas said.

Thomas says he’s worried about too much rain. Right now, Lake Okeechobee is just under 15 feet above sea level, almost one foot higher than it was this time last year.

US Army Corp of Engineers spokeswoman Erica Skilte explains the new flow in a statement:

“Flow on Caloosahatchee is reduced. Our previous target was 2,000 cfs measured at Moore Haven. New target is 3,000 cfs measured at Franklin. While this may appear to be larger, the 3,000 cfs is inclusive of basin runoff between Moore Haven and Franklin.

“Total flows previously at Franklin ranged between 5,000 and 6,000 cfs. The new target of 3,000 cfs represents significant reduction. Given that basin runoff has exceeded 3,000 on occasion over the past couple of weeks, it’s possible no lake water will be released on some days.”

Lawrence Guilhempe says he’s tired of seeing the blue-green algae every time he walks outside his house in Cape Coral.

“It seems the problem’s been going on for so long they can’t find a solution so hopefully that’s going to have a positive effect and reduce it at least,” Guilhempe said.

Officials say Tropical Storm Gordon added another 2.5 inches to the lake, and Thomas says more rain could lead to more releases in the future.

The new schedule to reduce the water releases from Lake Okeechobee started Friday morning.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will remain in effect until further notice.

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