Height of Lake Okeechobee increases

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

Despite recent rain, parts of Southwest Florida are still experiencing a drought.

And then you have Lake Okeechobee.

It is now a whopping 30 inches higher than it was this time last year.

With the tropics heating up, there are raised concerns for the people around the lake and downstream.

Allen Walls has been fishing Lake Okeechobee for 40 years.

“Bass fish and a lot of tournaments there occasionally come out here and just fun fish,” Walls said.

For Walls, it’s for fun. For others, the lake is a livelihood. Farmers need it to fuel their crops, the Everglades needs it for hydration, and in the Caloosahatchee, we need it to balance the estuary.

Juggling all the needs of the community is the job of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Today, the lake is sitting at 15.35 feet, which is 2.6 feet higher than last time this year,” said Major Cory Bell, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ideally, the army corps likes to keep it between 12 and a half and 15 and a half feet, meaning 15.35 feet isn’t out of their ideal zone.

But if last year taught us anything, it is that one storm can change that overnight.

After hurricanes Ian and Nicole, the lake rose 2 feet. Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner keeps that in mind when he sees the lake as high as it is.

“It’s always a bit of a stressful situation. Whenever you know that the Atlantic basin is getting fired up with storms,” Turner said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2023 Atlantic hurricane season outlook has been updated. NOAA upped its predictions from 12 to 17 named storms to 14 to 21.

WINK inquired with the Army Corps of Engineers about current actions being taken regarding it.

“Colonel Booth makes release decisions weekly based on the evaluations of lake stages, and the context of where we are in the season, both short and long-term forecasts locally and in the Atlantic, the status of the algae in the lake and the estuaries, ecological conditions throughout the entire system,” Bell said.

Right now, they said they won’t be taking action based on possible situations that may or may not occur in the future but will continue to be transparent and maintain open communication.

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