The blue-green algae coverage on Lake Okeechobee remains at about 30 percent as seen in the latest satellite image released today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Thursday image is the first clear one of the bloom since July 18 when 30 percent of the lake was also covered. That’s down from July 2 when 90 percent of the lake was showing a bloom.
Sachi Mishra, satellite oceanographer with NOAA, said partial images taken July 22 and 25 show the bloom covering just 10 percent and 20 percent of the lake respectively.
Despite the increase to 30 percent in the Thursday image, Mishra said scientists believe the bloom is receding.
Richard Stumpf, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who is monitoring the Lake Okeechobee bloom, said last week the 30 percent coverage looked “promising.”
“I will need to add that we are dealing with a live organism in a complex environment, so while we hope we are past the peak, there is not enough known to say whether the bloom will stay down or regrow,” Stumpf said.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it will cut Lake Okeechobee flows into the St. Lucie Estuary by 35 percent, and reduce discharges by 32 percent into the Caloosahatchee River.
The freshwater flushes weaken salinity levels in the estuaries and introduce blue-green algae that can grow into widespread toxic blooms.
Thursday’s announcement came after Florida Sportsman Magazine temporarily closed its Stuart office this week when employees were sickened by algae fumes, and as a top U.S. Department of Interior official took notice of South Florida’s water dilemma.