U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changing up patterns on Lake Okeechobee discharges

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 18:49:25-04

There was a noticeable difference at the St. Lucie Lock on Thursday.

Very little water was coming out of it. It's part of a new pattern the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to alleviate algae problems in the Treasure Coast.

"This would help allow some of the salt water from the ocean to creep a little further inward and wash just a little bit of the estuary out," said John Campbell, a spokesman for the Corps.

The pattern lasts for seven days. During the first few days, a lot of water is pumped out of the lake.

Campbell said at least a half billion gallons of it comes out each day.

Towards the end of the pattern is when the discharges slow down dramatically.

Some residents, though, want them to stop all together.

Campbell said that won't be possible any time soon.

"If the lake would start receding, that scenario would become more likely. Of course what would have to happen is an extended period of dry weather."

The biggest challenge right now, he added, is that we're in both the "rainy season" and hurricane season. He said that the lake level can jump dramatically with just one storm.

The lake is kept at a certain level to prevent a dike from breaching.

"There are scenarios that are worse than algae in the estuaries. Scenarios involving a breach in the dike that would involve--potentially--widespread property damage or the potential loss of life," Campbell said.

He said it's not clear how long the seven day pattern will continue.