Crews are making room for more water ahead of the Lake Okeechobee releases scheduled to start this week.
Many in Southwest Florida are preparing as the water could arrive as early as Tuesday.
“They have the tunnel locks open probably in attempt to lower the canal level here in anticipation for the discharges that are on the way next week,” said Chris Whittman who is the Co-Founder and Program Director for Captains for Clean Water.
They are making room for discharges of water and the concerns it will bring. “One is our water quality, we know that there’s a tremendous amount of nutrients and legacy pollution in the lake and those foul algae blooms as we saw in 2018,” Whittman said.
People here in Southwest Florida remember that 2018 sight all too well.
Dennis Feeste and his family enjoy coming to Alva and getting out on the water. But if the water turns dark and murky again, they’ll have to find somewhere else to go.
“We have to find somewhere else to go or we’d have to drive further and go somewhere else because we love the water and one way or another we’re going to find it where it’s decent enough for us to enjoy it rather than not going at all,” Feeste said.
Whittman said, “I would use caution and we know that blue-green algae cyanobacteria can be toxic and dangerous to human health.”
“So, I think it is a situation where if we are going to have discharges from the lake where there are known algae blooms that it’s probably safe to not come in contact with the water,” he added.
High water levels are another for everyone. “We have a lot of local rain and we have discharges from the lake, we’ve seen the water volume coming through the canal here over 8000 9000 ft.³ per second,” said Whittman. “So, that’s a lot more than what our estuary can handle.”
Homeowners will be paying close attention, hoping the water doesn’t get too high. They also hope that the water won’t’ get into their yards and homes.
Right now, Lake O’s water level is sitting at 16.09 feet, which is up from 16.02 feet on Friday.