Water flow from Lake Okeechobee to be reduced

Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 03, 2016

A drop in the level of Lake Okeechobee has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water being released.

The water level at the lake is down more than a half foot since its peak about a month ago, according to the Army Corps.

It now stands at 15.83 feet.

“Lake levels have been falling as a result of water releases, decreased inflows, and drier conditions,” Jacksonville District Operations Division Chief Jim Jeffords said in a news release. “Although the lake is still uncomfortably high for this time of year, our water control plan calls for lower flows based on current conditions. If the lake starts rising again, we may have to increase flows; it all depends on the weather.”

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.

The Army Corps said its new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary, set to begin this weekend, is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock.

Scientists have warned that the discharges are harming marine life and have been impacting businesses on the Treasure Coast with ties to the water.

Last week Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Lee, Martin and St. Lucie Counties and yesterday announced that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will immediately activate a business emergency operations center. It's designed to assess how businesses are impacted by the water releases from Lake Okeechobee.