Eta halting plans to slow Lake Okeechobee releases

Published: November 6, 2020 3:48 PM EST
Updated: November 7, 2020 9:49 PM EST

The Army Corps is now saying that releases need to continue at the same rate due to the amount of rain expected this weekend. This comes as plans were originally to reduce discharge soon.

The Army Corps says it’s using its research and experience from Hurricane Dorian in preparation for Eta.

“Last week, about this time, I was indicating that we would ‘likely reduce releases east and west out of Lake Okeechobee’ given the trend line that we were looking at and then eta came,” said Colonel Andrew Kelly, Commander and District Engineer for the Army Corps.

If we get the rain that’s predicted from Tropical Depression Eta, the water from Lake Okeechobee will continue to flow. “What we are looking at right now… up to about a ten-inch rise on lake Okeechobee,” Colonel Kelly said.

Ten inches will trigger the plan to move the releases out. “If they get a 5-10-inch rise, this kind of release schedule could extend for another month,” said Kelly.

Conservationists have already said that releases are threatening fish, crabs and seagrass.

Kelly says triple-checking the dike is a big part of their plan. While those repairs are underway they are not yet complete.

“Repairs that have been ongoing with the dike have certainly helped. Absolutely, the dike is in better shape,” said Colonel Kelly. “If we get a full 10-inch rise, we will ramp up our review and inspection schedule along the dike.”

The hope is that by December the releases will be over, the lake will be at a safe level and dike repairs can continue.

Once Eta passes us by, the Army Corps can return to its original timeline of slowing the releases in a matter of days.