On Wednesday, the gates remained open, but water flow was lower than what was released Tuesday. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said the gates will open and close based on weather in the area. No lake water is being released. Any decision to release lake water will be well publicized.
Rain runoff in the swelling St. Lucie Canal was being sent eastward through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam at a rate of 1.2 billion gallons of water per day, which would fill 1,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Officials worried about flooding after recent rainfall.
The canal is about 20 miles from the eastern edge of Lake Okeechobee.
Video shot by St. Lucie River Activist Kenny Hinkle Jr., shows four of the seven so-called “gates of hell” open, unleashing problematic fresh water into the St. Lucie River.
“It’s like we’re the punching bag of South Florida,” Hinkle said. “It destroys everything. It destroys our economy, our property values and quality of life.”
“I want to emphasize that this is not water from Lake Okeechobee,” said John Campbell, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps manages the dam, and the recent rain forced their hand.
“Ensure that flood risk is reduced for nearby property owners,” said Campbell.
“We could have sent that water west to the lake and given it a little time to see what rainy season was going to do,” Hinkle Jr. said.
Filling Lake Okeechobee this early in rainy season could lead to dreaded discharges from the lake, which was a main contributor to the crippling algae crisis in 2016. The safer, but not perfect option is sending it east.
“Certainly the runoff that collects in the canal has some challenges with quality and certainly our partners at the state and local level are aware of that.
The flows through the lock and dam will be altered based on the rainfall.