Businesses: Lake O discharges costing them money

Posted at 5:26 PM, Mar 14, 2016

The Army Corps of Engineers says Lake Okeechobee on Monday sits at 15.44 feet.  That's down nearly three-quarters of a foot from last month's ten year high water mark, but not enough to stop the freshwater discharges that some locals say is hurting their businesses.

“We were building a successful business," said Lillian Graziano Monday inside Reel Life Bait and Tackle in Hobe Sound.

But like slippery shiner bait, it’s been a tough year for Graziano to get a good grip on business.

“It’s approximately 40-percent less this year," Graziano added.

Graziano filled out a survey posted online two weeks ago by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity asking how the freshwater releases coming through the St. Lucie Lock are impacting her.  While this continues to reduce the lake levels at Lake Okeechobee, it’s one of many things Graziano says hurts her bottom line.

“From going to build the business forward, we’re taking a step back right now," said Graziano.

So far, 21 businesses on Florida’s East Coast have filled out those forms, the majority of them, 17,  filled in Martin County.

Most businesses claim potential losses up to $100-thousand.  Some said it may be more.
Graziano says it’s not about getting loans from the state, it’s about putting money towards fixing the problems in the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades.

“Whether we get the money today or tomorrow, it’s not going to help the long-term effect of the discharges," said Graziano.