LAKE OKEECHOBEE — Cloud cover has made it difficult for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to get a usable satellite image of Lake Okeechobee in order to postulate algae potential. However, that heavy cloud cover could help reduce any algae blooms in the big lake.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the most recent samples taken by the South Florida Water Management District at Port Mayaca (where the St. Lucie Canal connects to Lake Okeechobee) and at Moore Haven (where water from the lake enters the Caloosahatchee River) found no dominant algal taxon and detected no cyanotoxins.
The lake has had an “average” year for algal blooms, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of the samples found no toxins or very low levels of toxins (below the level considered safe for human recreational contact by the Environmental Protection Agency). Two sample areas with high toxin levels earlier in the summer were from a bloom near the middle of the lake, many miles from shore.
There have been no fish kills reported on Lake Okeechobee this year.
According to “The Future of Harmful Algal Blooms in Florida Inland and Coastal Waters,” by Dr. Karl Havens, hot sunny days with no cloud cover can be favorable for algal blooms. Hot sunny days combined with nutrient availability and lack of water movement may provide ideal conditions for algae and cyanobacteria that is part of the lake’s natural ecosystem to reproduce rapidly into a “bloom.”
“Conversely, an intense rain event or a couple of overcast days might end a particular HAB (harmful algal bloom) event even when the underlying conditions are still good for algae growth,” he explained.