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Herbert Hoover Dike repairs ahead of schedule

Repairs take place at the Herbert Hoover Dike on April 14, 2021.jpg
Posted at 3:50 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 17:59:26-04

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lake Okeechobee is at just over 14 feet, and blue-green algae is visible along its edge.

Should we worry?

At Port Mayaca in Martin County, it looks ominous.

The return of blue-green algae, triggering concerns of another environmental crisis.

"What I will say is the conditions aren’t the same. A lot of things have changed on the lake, they are not the same as they were in 2018," said Col. Andrew Kelly.

40 miles away at the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Clewiston, Kelly said what they’re seeing on the lake now doesn’t necessarily mean bad months are ahead.

There has been some sub-aquatic vegetation growth, and we are a few years removed from the last major hurricane.

"What I would say to the groups that are fearful, I would say right now that the indicators are positive and between us and SFWMD we are pulling out all the stops we can get to before the wet season starts," Kelly said.

On Wednesday, the colonel led a tour of the biggest construction project along the lake, a project designed to keep the surrounding communities safe from flooding.

It comes with a $1.8 billion price tag. Work to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike began in 2007, but the Corps says they’re in the home stretch. They hope to have this complete by next year.

"So what this wall does is it cuts the flow of water through the dike and it forces it deeper into the ground," said project manager Ingrid Bon.

Repairs will be complete three years ahead of schedule.

"So we got full funding and the state of Florida kicked in $100 million to accelerate the program," Kelly said.

For the Corps, there is the difficulty in balancing competing interests along the lake.

Kelly says it’s his job to take the hits from all sides as they come up with a new plan on how and when to release water from Lake Okeechobee.

"And since we own the levers, it’s really the right place to point so we’re good with that," Kelly said.

Working to make sure this summer is not another lost summer.