The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing the flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries as the lake reaches the uncomfortable level of 15.57 feet above sea level.
The Corps prefers to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level because of the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects surrounding communities from flooding but is vulnerable to erosion if the lake gets too high.
Candida Bronson, acting operations division chief for the Jacksonville district of the Corps, said dike inspections have increased.
“We expect the water level to continue to rise over the next few weeks,” Bronson said in a press release. “Increasing flows from the lake now allows us to slow the rise to put us in the best position to handle heavy rain events that might develop in the final weeks of the wet season.”
But the release of lake water into the fragile estuaries is blamed, in part, for creating the massive algae bloom in June and July that covered Treasure Coast waterways and turned off tourists during the July 4 holiday.
The amount of water being released into the St. Lucie Estuary will increase about 53 percent to 807,900 gallons per minute. Water releases into the Caloosahatchee will increase by 42 percent to 1.8 million gallons per minute.