Army Corps to double planned water discharge from Lake Okeechobee
The South Florida flooding risk from Lake Okeechobee rising faster than expected has convinced federal officials to potentially dump twice as much lake water out to sea as once planned.
Just a day after announcing the start of renewed lake draining due to heavy rains, the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday called for ratcheting up the discharges east into the St. Lucie River and west into the Caloosahatchee River.
The lake level rose a quarter of a foot in 24 hours, hitting 15.79 feet above sea level. The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet to ease the strain on the lake's erosion-prone dike.
While dumping lake water to the east and west coasts is good for protecting the dike that guards against flooding, that influx of lake water can harm coastal fishing grounds and lead to algae blooms that make water unsafe for swimming.
The Army Corps' new plan calls for draining up to 1.8 billion gallons of lake water per day into the St. Lucie River and 4.2 billion gallons per day into the Caloosahatchee River.
"With heavy rains contributing to increased flows and challenges throughout the system, we must use all available tools to protect the health and safety of people living and working in south Florida," said Jim Jeffords, the Army Corps chief of operations for Florida.