Lake Okeechobee Discharges Continue At Maximum To Florida Coastal Estuaries
Water managers continue to send as much water as possible from a rain-swollen Lake Okeechobee to delicate coastal estuaries.
Worry is growing about their impact on the estuaries east and west of the lake nearly a month after the discharges began.
The discharges are necessary because a rainy winter has driven Lake Okeechobee to its highest level in more than a decade, putting pressure on its aging dike.
Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society says the bursts of polluted fresh water are so damaging, people are being warned to avoid contact with the water.
“The water is a dark, dark brown color,” says Perry. “It’s suspended silt and sediment in the water. You can’t see probably two or three inches below the surface of the water if you put your hand in.”
Water managers can’t send more water south of the state’s largest lake because those reservoirs are full, too, after the wettest January since record-keeping began in 1932.
Perry says the problems likely will persist as the summer rainy season approaches.
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