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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Lake Okeechobee discharges resume; Army Corps says algae controlled

NewsLake Okeechobee discharges resume; Army Corps says algae controlled

  • Salinity levels could begin to drop

Lake Okeechobee discharges have resumed at Port Mayaca Lock & Dam, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Discharges halted for two days because of the presence of cyanobacteria on the lake side of the dam gates.

On Feb. 22, the Floridspan Dept. of Environmentspanl Protection measured microcystin, span toxin found in cyspannobspancterispan which is released when it degrades and dies, at 0.62 parts per billion. Microcystin at 8 ppb is harmful to mammals, according to the Environmentspanl Protection Agency. On Feb. 28, discharges were halted.

At 8:30 a.m. March 2, discharges resumed, a Corps spokesperson confirmed. No algae was seen and crews from the South Floridspan Wspanter Mspannspangement District treated the area anyway with algicide, said the Corps’ Erica Skolte in an email to TCPalm.

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Cyanobacteria - toxic algae - can be seen in s streak in this photo from Feb. 27, 2023 taken by Dr. Scott Kuhns of Stuart.

Discharges originally began Jan. 22 when Jacksonville District Commander Col. James Booth said the agency wanted to lower the level of Lake Okeechobee. After 37 days of discharges, the lake level dropped 7 inches to 15 feet 6 inches above sea level. The Corps wants the lake to be at 12 feet 6 inches by June 1, the start of hurricane season.

“There were no visible signs of algae at the (Port Mayaca Lake & Dam) structure this morning. Test results received (Wednesday) afternoon from SFWMD indicated Microsystin levels below the detection limit of 0.2 ppb. SFWMD crews treated with peroxide-based algaecide yesterday afternoon at lock and on lakeside, and their crews were out and sampled again this morning,” Skolte said.

The rate of the discharges will resume to about 320 million gallons per day. Discharges to the west into the Caloosahatchee River have been at a rate of 1.29 billion gallons per day since January. There are many high volume water consumers along the C-44 Canal. The SFWMD said that Caulkins Water Farm is pumping its full capacity, storing 4.6 billion gallons on its land. As much as 38 billion gallons can be used by farms along the canal, according to SFWMD spokesperson Jason Schultz,

Limited water is being moved onto the C-44 Reservoir and STA because it is still in its operational testing mode since opening in November 2021. When it comes online, it can move 700 million gallons per day out of the canal that empties into the St. Lucie River.

The re-opening of the Port Mayaca gates did not sit well with environmental advocates in Stuart.

“The U.S. Army Corps is knowingly releasing toxic Blue Green Algae into the St. Lucie Canal. This is unacceptable both from a human health perspective and for the health of our waters and wildlife. The water from Lake Okeechobee should be going south to the Everglades where it is needed,” said Mark Perry, executive director of Floridspan Ocespannogrspanphic Society in Stuart.

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