C-44 backflow feeds algae bloom in Lake O
LAKE OKEECHOBEE — Lake Okeechobee area anglers, water managers and environmentalists are keeping a careful watch on algae blooms in the big lake.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite imagery from the week of June 10 shows algae bloom potential in about 60 percent of Lake Okeechobee, with the highest bloom potential on the east side of the lake. (More recent satellite images were obscured by cloud cover.)
At the June 11 meeting of the South Florida Water Management District board, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch said she flew recently over the lake and noted a visible algae bloom on the east side. She said there has been a heavy backflow into the lake from the C-44 Canal on the east side of the lake. The freshwater from basin runoff would have been detrimental to the St. Lucie River had it been released east through the St. Lucie Lock, she said. While the nutrient load from the C-44 backflow contributes to the excess nutrient load in the lake, Lake O is already eutrophic, she said. (The C-44 basin runoff is about twice as high in phosphorus as is the lake water on average, according to SFWMD data.)
Water from the C-44 (also known as the St. Lucie Canal) can flow east to the St. Lucie River through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam or back flow west into Lake Okeechobee at Port Mayaca.