WEST PALM BEACH — The past month’s increase in the level of Lake Okeechobee was good for the lake’s marshes, according to SFWMD Water Resources Division Director Lawrence Glenn’s ecological conditions report at the Aug. 13 SFWMD Governing Board meeting.
Lake Okeechobee had a 1.2 feet increase in lake stage since last month, he said.
“At about 12 feet, the marsh begins to inundate, and it’s at about 15 to 15.5 feet, the marsh is completely inundated,” he explained.
From an ecological stance, it’s really good to get the marsh inundated, he said.
“We haven’t had the upper marshes inundated in about two years,” Glenn continued. He said a high winter stage of 15 to 15.5 feet benefits the ecosystem in several ways:
• It promotes aquatic prey production in the upper marshes, supporting fish and wildlife.
He said when the lake gets to 13.7 feet, the inundated marshes increase dramatically to more than 40,000 acres. It goes up to about 55,000 between 14.6 feet and 15.5 feet.
The higher lake level at the end of the wet season allows a nice, slow regression.
Glenn said SFWMD has been monitoring algae blooms, which have waxed and waned over the past month. Wind speed is one factor studied.
Thirty-two stations are sampled biweekly during the summer months, he explained.
He said the data will help them understand the factors that cause the blue-green algae to produce toxins.
Snail kite population size is increasing, he said, but more juvenile birds are not surviving to adulthood.
He said they have not seen snail kite nests in the Lake Okeechobee area in two years due to the low lake levels. Fortunately, snail kites are very mobile, he said. The birds have found other areas in which to nest along the Kissimmee River, St. Johns and Paines Prairie.