Mixed opinion on repairs to Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake O

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FILE: Water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River on October 29, 2018. (Credit: WINK News/FILE)
FILE: Water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River on October 29, 2018. (Credit: WINK News/FILE)

President Donald Trump is scheduled to come to Lake Okeechobee Friday. Trump is expected to talk about progress on the Herbert Hoover Dike and the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.

People on the east coast, the center of the state and here in Southwest Florida want crews to get repairs on the dike finished.

Will that solve the water crisis? People here hope that will mean less water released from Lake Okeechobee into our waterways.

But Ramond Iglesias in Clewiston said less water releases will become detrimental for the lake.

β€œThe repairs of that Herbert Hoover Dike are in need,” Iglesias said. “There is a need for safety reasons. We cannot use that as a crutch now. We can put 18 feet of water in the lake? Absolutely not. That will kill the second largest freshwater lake in the country, and that’s not good for anybody.”

Less discharges would likely mean less blue-green algae locally. But Iglesias said more water in the lake will kill off seagrass because high water levels block out the sun.

β€œWe need to get our submergent grass that we used to have back in here,” Chet Douthit said. “That is our natural filtration system of this lake. It clears all the water up. It filters it out. And without it, this lake is going to stay a mudhole.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the dike is scheduled to be complete in 2022. The total cost for repairs to the dike comes out to around $1.8 billion. The cost is completely funded by the federal and state government, so there should be no delays getting the job done.

Douthit has been a fisherman on Lake O for 37 years. He thinks the main focus should be reviving the seagrass — not keeping our water a clear blue.

β€œIt ain’t going to hurt nobody,” Douthit said. β€œThat’s all we ever wanted is clear water running out of here. But with no grass in here, we can’t get the clear water back in here.”

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