LAKE OKEECHOBEE – Heavy rainfall continued to soak areas north and south of Lake Okeechobee last week, leaving canals high, fields flooded and Lake Okeechobee rising. On Oct. 27, the lake level was 16.37 feet above sea level. One week ago it was 16.22.
Despite releases from the lake — west to the Caloosahatchee River and east to the St. Lucie River — the big lake continues to rise.
On Oct. 14, Col. Andrew Kelly of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a plan to release water east and west in an attempt to slow the rise of the lake, which was already more than 6 inches above it’s upper regulation schedule of 15.5 feet. The corps’ plan calls for releases of 4,000 cubic feet per second to the Caloosahatchee River, measured at the Moore Haven Lock and 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie, measured at the St. Lucie Lock. The St. Lucie Lock is 23.9 miles from Port Mayaca (where the C-44 canal meets the lake) so flow at the St. Lucie Lock includes a mixture of local basin runoff and lake water. For the past 7 days, while flow at the St. Lucie Lock averaged 1,585 cfs, about half of the water going into the St. Lucie came from the C-44 basin. Flow at Port Mayaca averaged just 798 cfs.
The corps is also working with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to monitor cyanobacteria (also called blue green algae) in the lake to prevent the release of any toxins to the coastal estuaries.
The most recent water sampling results by the South Florida Water Management District found no toxins in the samples near Port Mayaca or Moore Haven. Samples were taken at 15 sites on the lake on Oct. 21; low levels of microcystin were detected at three sampling sites, with the highest reading at 5 parts per billion near the center of the lake, which is about 40 miles across. The Environmental Protection Agency considers levels below 8 ppb to be safe for recreational contact such as swimming.