Lake O releases to resume into St. Lucie Estuary

Posted at 11:32 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 23:42:15-05

The rainy weather we have experienced during the dry season could soon start taking a toll on Treasure Coast waterways.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday plans to start releasing upwards of 1.8 billion gallons of water every day from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary.

The Corps says rainy weather from is only one factor leading to the higher lake levels.

A spokesman says back-pumping has also contributed to rapidly rising levels.

Agricultural areas near the Everglades, including sugar land, have also been swamped with wet weather. The Army Corps says water storage areas to the south are filling up.

As a result, those agricultural areas have back-pumped excess water back into the lake.

In the last 24 hours, the Army Corps of Engineers says back-pumping has contributed to raising the lake level 3-inches.

Local environmentalists, including Mark Perry at Florida Oceanographic, are infuriated by the back-pumping. Perry questions their need to back pump and blames it on putting sea grass and oyster beds in the St. Lucie River at risk.

Perry says salinity levels in parts of the estuary are already low. Lake releases will increase the fresh water percentage in the river.

Water currently being released through the St. Lucie dam is only local runoff. The lake water will begin discharging over the weekend.

The Army Corps of Engineers reports the lake level Friday was 15.79 feet. Levels over 16 feet can begin to put the dike at risk.