October 20, 2016
Lake Okeechobee discharges to be reduced to 756 million gallons daily
Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie River will decrease again Friday.
The Army Corps of Engineers will reduce the discharges from about 1.16 billion gallons a day to pulse discharges averaging 756.2 million gallons a day, it announced Thursday.
It's a significant drop because blue-green algae from the lake started blooming in the river in early summer, just after discharges were raised to 1.1 billion gallons a day. Algae blooms aren't as likely now thanks to cooler water and shorter days.
The lake level is 15.84 feet, which is down 0.13 feet over the past week and 0.31 feet from its post-Hurricane Matthew high. The corps prefers to maintain the lake between 12 feet, 6 inches at the beginning of summer — so there's capacity to store water from summer rains, tropical storms and hurricanes — and 15 feet, 6 inches in mid- to late fall — so there's stored water for irrigation through the winter dry season.
Pulse discharges are designed to mimic the natural flow of water through the river after heavy rains: sending no lake water through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam over the weekend and increasing the flow through the week. The pulses were credited with helping increase salinity and preserving oyster colonies in the river during the late summer.
Still, officials aren't ending the releases completely.
Since starting Jan. 30, discharges have dumped more than 208 billion gallons of Lake O water into the St. Lucie River, which flows into the Indian River Lagoon. That's enough to cover the city of Stuart with about 116 feet of water.