Experts keep close eye on Lake Okeechobee water levels

STUART, Fla. - It's been a wet start to July and experts are keeping a close eye on the water levels of Lake Okeechobee.

This July has seen twice as much rain than what is considered normal, but as a whole it's been a more normal rainy season than last year, according to Randy Smith of the South Florida Water Management District.

He says the Army Corps of Engineers have not had to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee, like last year, because the lake's levels are normal at this point.

"This is a much more of a normal type wet season for us where we hope we can avoid some of the problems that were created by the excessive rain fall last year," Smith said.

Last year's rainfall raised the lake's levels and forced the Corps to discharge water into the waterways of the Treasure Coast.

Those discharges have been blamed for poisoning the water by bringing in toxins the water picked up along the way.

Smith says while those discharges haven't been needed this rainy season, plans are in place to store water if the levels do rise.

The SFWMD has contracts with farmers to put water on land that is not in use.

"(These are) things that we are putting in place to avoid the tremendous amount of stress that's put on the estuaries when the Corps of Engineers does have to make flood releases," Smith says.

Smith says the discharges that have been made have been sent west for environmental reasons.

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