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Drier Forecast Prompts End To Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Satellite image of Lake Okeechobee showing the cyanobacteria algae bloom. Image courtesy of NASA

Satellite photograph of Lake Okeechobee from July 2016, showing a large cyanobacteria algae bloom. Image courtesy of NASA

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Water managers are suspending flows from Lake Okeechobee to Florida’s east coast, where the influxes triggered toxic algae blooms this summer.

They are looking ahead to a dry year after one of the state’s wettest.

The discharges will slow to a trickle to Florida’s west coast, where the estuary requires some water from Lake Okeechobee to help manage its salinity.

Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society says some 218 billion gallons of water flowed to the east coast from the state’s largest lake since the discharges began in January.

“It quantifies to over 200 days or so of water supply to all of south Florida. So it’s really a major amount of water that’s been discharged.”

More than 400 billion gallons flowed to the west coast.

Heavy rain forced the discharges, triggering toxic algae blooms that prompted emergency declarations in four counties. With drier weather coming, water managers want to conserve water.

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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 whose work has been heard on NPR and seen in PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. She began her career at The Associated Press. Her book on the Everglades, under contract with Johns Hopkins ... Read Full Bio »