This is the news we’ve been dreading. With a massive blue-green algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee, the flood gates to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are opening this afternoon. 

The video below, captured by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, illustrates the threat.

Lake Okeechobee has been grappling with algae blooms for months. Now, with the flood gates opening to the estuaries, that algae — some of which has been confirmed toxic — may flow into the fishing holes and backyards of people along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. 

Blue-green algae is more than unsightly — it’s a confirmed threat to human health. Scientists have linked toxins in cyanobacteria to liver disease, ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

We know the solutions, and with your support, we’re advancing them. We must:

  • Move more water south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades during the dry season. This would benefit the Everglades, which needs water in the winter months. And it would preclude the need for discharges east and west when the lake gets too high during the wet season. 
  • Build an EAA Storage Reservoir that is large enough, and effective enough, to stop discharges east and west. 
  • Adopt enforceable water-quality standards for the state of Florida, and hold polluters accountable if they don’t comply.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday afternoon it will send 1,800 cubic feet per second to the St. Lucie River, and 4,000 cubic feet per second to the Caloosahatchee River. 

Let’s do the math. That equates to 1.1 billion gallons a day to the fragile St. Lucie, which already has been blasted by runoff from recent heavy rains. On the Caloosahatchee side, that means almost 2.6 billion gallons a day.   

And we don’t know how many days this pollution will last. Col. Andrew Kelly said the lake releases will continue “until we stabilize the lake,” which stood at 16.21 feet today. His best guess is a month.

The last time the estuaries got blasted with Lake Okeechobee discharges during the rainy season, guacamole-green water tainted both coasts — drawing international attention to Florida for all the wrong reasons. 

This is not going to be pretty. We will be monitoring conditions in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and keeping you informed about how to help us put an end to toxic Lake Okeechobee discharges.


Eve Samples
Executive Director, Friends of the Everglades