GLADES COUNTY, Fla.- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is closely watching the water levels in Lake Okeechobee. It has the authority to release water down the Caloosahatchee River, and that could affect river quality all the way to the Gulf.
"Pretty much any large release is a disaster for the estuary, and the near shore gulf as well," says Greg Rawl, chairman of the SW Florida Watershed Council. "The huge discharge of fresh water just blows away the estuary. It kills oyster beds, it harms marine life that need salt water or a mix of salt and fresh. It also tends to cause algae blooms."
John Campbell of the Army Corps in Jacksonville tells WINK News: "The lake level has come up nearly one foot since Sunday. There was very heavy rain on the lake and to the north. That will drain into the lake. We could release small amounts of water now, but we are going to wait to see what happens. We could do a large release if we have another foot of water level, and a forecast for more wet weather."
Some boaters like Kevin Warren, hope there is no release.
"I can tell when they put out the water from the Lake. The water all the way to Sanibel gets dark, it's pretty dirty," says Warren.
The Corps releases water to reduce pressure on the dike around the lake. That dike is old and not in great shape. If it broke, lake waters could flood towns and farms south of the lake, and that could be a major disaster.