South Florida residents are on edge as heavy rains have pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee toward the tipping point where damaging releases to the coasts are deemed necessary to protect the Herbert Hoover Dike.
Today at 15.86 feet, the possibility of toxic discharges is more likely than it’s been the last two years.
Thanks to a change in operations that has lowered Lake Okeechobee levels before the rainy season, the Army Corps of Engineers has been better equipped to deal with extra rainfall like the deluge of storms that have lingered over South Florida for the past several weeks. We are hopeful that the Army Corps’ efforts to avoid discharges to the northern estuaries by finding additional southern water-storage capacity is the sign of a new norm as they work to develop the new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, set to take effect in 2022.
Florida will continue to be susceptible to storms that bring a lot of water and have the potential to overwhelm the system. For that reason, harmful discharges may always be an unfortunate option. But they can’t be the first or the only option. We must continue to push for water management solutions that do more to safeguard all Florida residents, all year long.
We’ve assembled a list of important resources to help you monitor the situation as it continues to evolve:
- Lake O levels: The Army Corps of Engineers provides an update on Lake Okeechobee water levels every 24 hours: http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml
- Toxic algae testing:Florida DEP provides weekly reports on Lake Okeechobee algal blooms, including data points marking sampling locations and results of areas that have been tested most recently: https://floridadep.gov/AlgalBloomWeeklyUpdate
- The big picture: http://eyeonlakeo.com/ provides an archive of satellite imagery that tracks algal blooms on Lake Okeechobee when they are visible from space, live and historical data from state and federal water managers, and easy-to-read maps that identify nutrient pollution and track water quality throughout South Florida waterways
- Action alerts: At Friends of the Everglades, we’ll keep you on top of news as it happens and offer action items if and when we need public comment and support through our Latest news tab on everglades.org