The South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partner up to make sure canals and Lake Okeechobee are managed cohesively. But at the end of the day, all eyes are on Dorian to see what could happen to water levels.
“Well, none of us can predict what Mother Nature’s going to do,” said Ramon Iglesias.
Iglesias grew up in Clewiston, born and raised. He’s also the co-founder of Anglers for Lake Okeechobee.
“That water is not only going to dump on Lake Okeechobee, if Dorian decides to do that, but it’s going to come down from the northern watershed and it could possibly dump a foot, two feet of water on our lake within a week’s time,” he said.
That rain and runoff could change the salinity of the water and be harmful to the lake.
“The health of the lake is so important to everybody that high water on this lake is very detrimental,” said Iglesias. “It’s detrimental not only for the safety of the Herbert Hoover Dike behind us, but it’s detrimental for the aquatic vegetation in our lake, which serves as a filter for Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.”
That leaves groups like SFWMD and the Army Corps in a race against the clock.
“We’ve already notified all of our staff that might staff this room to be prepared to work during the weekend, whether it’s manning pump stations to continue 24-hour pumping operations, possible debris in canals, damage assessment,” said SFWMD Emergency Manager Beth McElroy.
The district plans to lower canals in an effort to protect millions of Floridians from flooding.
“So it’s kind of early to tell right now, which of those canals would be, it can depend upon the storm track, landfall intensity, duration, a bunch of variables,” said McElroy.
And now while they work, we wait.
“At the end of the day, it’s not in our hands,” said Iglesias.
The Army Corps says they still haven’t made any decisions about releases related to Dorian in order to manage water levels. However, they did do releases surrounding Hurricane Irma. About eight months later, we got blue-green algae.