Rising Lake Okeechobee water levels cause concern for release to coasts

Published: September 21, 2020 4:46 PM EDT
Updated: September 21, 2020 5:50 PM EDT
The water levels at Lake Okeechobee, on the other side of the Herbert Hoover Dike, stand at 15.18 feet. This approaching the maximum height the Army Corps is comfortable with.

“I know I’m just one person, but it’s just frustrating,” said Doug Akins of North Fort Myers. Akins is concerned because he doesn’t want to see the harmful discharges from Lake O.

Akins also questions why the Caloosahatchee River receives more water than the St. Lucie River on the East Coast. “It just doesn’t seem fair,” he said.

James Evans, with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, says that we haven’t received Lake O releases for the majority of the summer.

“It’s actually what we call watershed runoff and that’s the water that comes from the drainage system that allows the water to run off the landscape and be put into the Caloosahatchee,” said Evans, environmental policy director at SCCF.

The Caloosahatchee still has a delicate balance of fresh and saltwater, though.

“It’s kind of like the Goldilocks principle. We don’t want too much and we don’t want too little,” Evans added. “During the rainy season, that’s generally when we receive high flows and generally those flows exceed that optimal range that we would like to see.”

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani says there are multiple issues that can come from releases. “We’re already getting too much from the basin, a lot of nutrients, a lot of dark water coming in from the basin. If we get lake discharges, it just makes it worse.”

That can include algae-tainted water.

The Army Corps told WINK News that if they do implement a new release schedule, it would likely be Saturday.