May 2, 2017
Lake O at lowest level since 2012
By Bryan Anderson
CLEWISTON, Fla. - Lake Okeechobee's water level is at the lowest it has been since 2012, and it's having a negative impact on everything from recreation to the health of the Caloosahatchee River.
It was at 11'6" on Tuesday, exposing more sand and dead vegetation than locals are used to seeing.
"Years ago when I was in high school, all of that was covered in water. You couldn't see rocks. You could see the vegetation, but it was water underneath it," said boater Phillip Berry.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently releasing 300 cubic feet per second of Lake O water into the Caloosahatchee compared to 8,000 cubic feet per second in 2016. Three-hundred cubic feet per second is the lowest release rate before the Corps considers closing off the Herbert Hoover Dike altogether.
That's potentially bad news for the Caloosahatchee, which depends on the lake's fresh water to balance its salinity.
The dropping lake level is also becoming more difficult on boaters to navigate. One fisherman, Terry Garrels, said it can be a dangerous drive if you don't know where you're going.
"You can hit a rock, hit the bottom of your boat, things like that," Garrels said.
If water levels drop low enough, even navigation locks would be affected, further restricting where boaters can go.