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Most of South Florida in a moderate drought

Lower water levels can help Lake Okeechobee
Posted: 7:12 PM, Jan 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-04 07:03:45-05
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OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — With hardly any rain in the forecast, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast are dealing with dry conditions, and we remain in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s report.

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On a warm Thursday afternoon, a family was out on a tour of Lake Okeechobee aboard an air boat, but only a few miles away at Riverbend Mobile Home and RV Park, more than a half-dozen boats were grounded.

“You can see the water edge mark there just below the boat there, and this boat is sitting in the mud,” said Robert Taylor, manager at Riverbend. “When it gets that low we can’t pull the boats in or out of the canal here because it’s too low.”

Across the canal, part of the sea wall was exposed. Most of South Florida is in a moderate drought, and Lake Okeechobee is sitting at about 12.6 feet above sea level. Officials say that is the lowest the lake has been, at this point in the year, since 2010.

“We are a tourist area and people come here to fish the lake, and when the water gets too low they can’t launch their boats,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, Okeechobee County.

But Commissioner Culpepper says it’s not all bad.

“When the sun shines through the water, the more shallow the water is the more it causes the grass on the bottom of the lake to grow, that’s where the fish spawn,” Culpepper said.

Lake Okeechobee’s level is still in the comfort zone to avoid a water shortage, but officials say warnings could be coming.

The lake serves as a backup water supply for West Palm Beach, and the South Florida Water Management District says water restrictions are not in place yet. Officials advised conserving water at your home now will help until the dry season ends in a few months.

Ultimately, Culpepper says maintaining Lake Okeechobee's levels is a tough balancing act.

“It causes a lot of external problems when you get a large deviation in the water,” Culpepper said.