OKEECHOBEE, Fla. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they will release water from Lake Okeechobee in advance of Hurricane Irma.
“We want to be ready for the heavy precipitation from Irma,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander in a statement. “We anticipate direct rain over the lake could add a foot to the water level. We’ve seen basin runoff from past events cause the lake to rise three feet over the span of a month. We want to do all we can to ensure we have as much storage as possible for Irma."
The Corps anticipates the releases will last "a short time", with future water management decisions based on the water level in the lake after the storm passes.
“We will only be able to release water for about three days at these rates,” said Kirk. “As the storm gets closer, we’ll have to close all the gates around the lake to reduce the risk from potential storm surge that may develop from high winds on the lake.”
To mitigate concern, the US Army Corp of Engineers is letting water out, to help out the aging dike.
"Our big concern and one of the reasons we do the water release is there's just limited outflow capacity to begin with," said Jacksonville based Corp spokesman John Campbell over the phone.
"We've talked to all the water management districts to get their water levels as low as they can in case we do have bands. But right now everybody believes we're in good shape," Florida Governor Rick Scott said Tuesday.
Releases from Lake O brings up bad memories for some down stream.
"I don't know how much (business) I lost," Irene Gomes, owner of the Jensen Beach motel "Driftwood," said. "The discharges having toxic, blue green Aleah. That's what comes to mind. This time I'm more concerned about the people around the lake."
"Those blooms were created after prolonged relaxes of weeks, several months. This particular event, we're talking about releasing water for maybe 3 days," Campbell said.
The state has approved initial plans for a reservoir nearby the lake, but that's still a ways away.
"This is a real wake up call right now. What we're facing right now, how important it is to get the reservoir done," Gomes said.
If and when Irma comes, the gates drowns the lake would close in case there are storm surges, the Corp said.