Army Corps of Engineers to schedule end of Lake Okeechobee releases

Business owners hope it will help profits
Posted at 11:29 PM, Nov 01, 2016

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Could we soon see an end to the Lake Okeechobee discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary?

That is the hope for many Treasure Coast business owners and residents now that the Army Corps of Engineers has said it could make that call this month.

Army Corps spokesman John Campbell says no specific date has been scheduled, but officials have been looking at November 11 as a possibility.

Thursday, Campbell says a more definitive date could be decided.

The discharges began in January following an unusually wet dry season.

The resulting conditions were devastating to local business owners. Toxic blue-green algae coated miles of the St. Lucie River, impacting tourism and the local economy.

Stuart business owner, Divyang Pandya, had to take out a $100,000 SBA loan to protect his losses.

The Valero gas station owner relies on fishermen to stop at his store near Sailfish Marina. He says they buy ice, bait, drinks and gasoline to keep his business running.

When the water is toxic, his business takes the hit.

“If nobody’s coming, no money. No money, we’re doomed,” Pandya said.

Now, he’s hoping seasonal residents will be able to return to Florida and enjoy cleaner water and help make up some of his losses.

“[We are] waiting for the wind to calm down, the water to calm down, the water to clear up and hopefully no more discharges.”

Once the discharges do stop, he’s hopeful they won’t resume for awhile.

“In the coming month, if everything calms down, then fishermen will be coming out and we’ll be back in business.”

If the Corps stops the discharges to the east, they will likely not stop flowing to the west. However, the discharges to the west would likely be reduced in November.