Lake Okeechobee at highest level since 2005

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 18:47:19-05

On a day like Monday, charter boat Captain Mike Conner should be out on the water.

“My customers are here. They’re here for a day or two, they have to book. They’re going back home with bad news," said Conner.

The news that water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous has started pouring into the Indian River Lagoon again.

“I’ve had to shift my fishing efforts away from the St. Lucie Inlet, because the St. Lucie River is black," added Conner.

While it’s easy to see the water rushing in at the St. Lucie Lock, it’s much calmer out at Port Mayaca along Lake Okeechobee.  But the lake water is flowing out from under the gates.

Too much fresh water in the lagoon could kill oysters and sea grass.

At Lake Okeechobee, the lake level Monday was at 16.14 feet, the highest level since December of 2005.  The Army Corps of Engineers likes to keep the level between 12 1/2 and 15 1/2 feet year round, with the goal of getting it down to 12 1/2 feet by the beginning of the rainy season.

“If the weather continues largely in the wet pattern it’s expected to, it would seem logical that these releases will go on for weeks if not months," said Army Corps spokesman John Campbell.

June Phillips drove out to the lock Monday just to see what was happening.

“It makes me sick, they've got to solve the problem.  I wouldn’t even let my grandchildren go in the water.  I’m a little upset.  It’s the same old thing.”