Lake Okeechobee water releases will continue to come to Southwest Florida

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

The water releases from Lake Okeechobee will continue heading west down the Caloosahatchee River to Southwest Florida. That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thursday.

That puts our beaches and canals at risk for murky water or algae.

The Corps says it committed to stopping releases as soon as possible when they started last month, but, because of November’s rain, it’s a long road ahead to end them.

Tea-colored water continues to lap against the shore of the Sanibel Causeway. Another sign of both the Lake Okeechobee releases and local runoff we’ve had for weeks.

Colonel Andrew Kelly is the District Commander with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. He said, “When we initiated releases, we were absolutely committed to stopping the releases as soon as possible.”

But now the lake is at 16.34 (Feet-NGVD29), meaning the Corps has no choice but to release water to the estuaries.

Kelly said they are continuing what they’ve been doing for the past several weeks, and the Corps will revisit this after Thanksgiving, but since we will see an extended period of time for releases, it is considering reducing or briefly pausing discharges to give the estuaries “Breathers.”

“Is there a value or an impact or a mitigation that can happen if we were to either reduce drastically or potentially pause?” Kelly said about the questions they must answer before making changes.

The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force met with the corps today with environmental and public health top of mind.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer said, “Information will continue to evolve.”

They discussed the Army Corps’ draft of an algal bloom risk metric with the goal of developing a method to evaulate the risk of algal blooms within Lake Okeechobee and discharges.

Because of the rain we’ve seen lately, the Corps said it’s ability to send water south of the lake is extremely limited, if at all.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.