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Clearer View Of Irma’s Impact Emerges As Lake Okeechobee Water Recedes

The sun sets behind the lock and dam on Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie Canal. Photo by Amy Green

Lake Okeechobee’s receding water is offering a clearer view of Irma’s environmental impact.

The water is down by about a foot since the hurricane but remains high at more than 16 feet.

Paul Gray of Audubon of Florida says the water and muck stirred from the lake’s bottom prevent sunlight from reaching important plant communities.

And those plants serve as nurseries for fish.

“You have a huge loss in the lake. You lose the plant communities. You lose the bass fishery, and the crappie fishery tends to tank, too. And it may not come back for years because we just have to sit around and wait for a drought.”

He says the state’s largest lake could lose as many as 70 square miles of vegetation although the full scope of the hurricane’s impact won’t be known for months.

Lake Okeechobee serves as the hydrological heart of the Everglades, a watershed that supports the drinking water for more than a third of Floridians.

 


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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a regular contributor to NPR, PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and other top news organizations. She is a Florida native with a zeal for chronicling the spurts and pains of ... Read Full Bio »

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