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West Coast Stakeholders Concerned About Lake O

June 28, 2023
lake okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee is full of water and blue green algae, creating a dismal outlook for a summer without damaging releases. The lake level has increased 0.40 ft in the past week, bringing the lake up to 14.59 feet today, which is well above the preferred 12-foot level during the start of the rainy season.

The past week’s steep incline was caused by rain over the lake and in the Kissimmee River Basin which eventually makes its way down to the lake.

“There is essentially no water leaving the lake,” said SCCF Research & Policy Associate Leah Reidenbach, who compiles weekly conditions reports.

On the Caloosahatchee side, watershed flows are exceeding the schedule set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a weekly average of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at S-79, preventing releases from the lake.

On the east coast, the Corps schedule calls for no releases to the St. Lucie Estuary. Releases cannot be made due the presence of potentially toxic algae near the Lock and Dam structure (S-80) which is connected to the St. Lucie Estuary. Additionally, no releases are being made to the Everglades Agricultural Area.

With a shift to an El Niño climate pattern, above-average rainfall patterns are predicted in South Florida for the rest of the year.

“With all of these factors converging, Lake Okeechobee is going to be on the verge of reaching dangerously high levels,” said Reidenbach. “That inevitably means the Caloosahatchee will be receiving damaging releases from the lake at some point this year.”

After Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole limited releases made during the dry season, SCCF and the west coast stakeholders remain concerned about these conditions. Find out more details and keep track of the latest conditions by signing up for our weekly Caloosahatchee Conditions Report.


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