Major water quality projects around Lake Okeechobee still on track

Major water quality projects around Lake Okeechobee still on track

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla.The Army Corps of Engineers says so far, so good when it comes to the lowering of Lake Okeechobee as we get into the rainy season. Still, there are no guarantees this summer will be free of harmful Lake O discharges.

Mary Radabaugh of Central Marine in Stuart took some video Tuesday morning outside her business. She said the water was a little smelly, and not that pretty.

“Kind of a Yoo-Hoo milk color," said Radabaugh.

But as an epicenter for past toxic algae events, Radabaugh is thankful for no recent freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

“If they were releasing, we could already be possibly in the situation we were last year," said Radabaugh.

Tuesday, Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds with the Army Corps of Engineers updated Martin County Commissioners on the Corps’ efforts to keep the lake levels down; currently it sits below 11 feet.

"We tried to maintain flows that were non-damaging to the estuaries during the dry season as well as beneficial to the lake ecology," said Lt. Col. Reynolds.

Reynolds said the submerged aquatic vegetation is regrowing., something Martin County’s ecosystem manager has seen firsthand.

“There’s thousands of acres where grasses are recovering because the light has reached the bottom and the seeds are able to germinate," said John Maehl.

Lt. Col. Reynolds added that one big storm changes their calculations.

“So if we got rainfall like in 2017, regardless of how low the lake is now, you could anticipate us making releases to the northern estuaries because of a significant tropical event.”

In an effort to greatly reduce future discharges, Reynolds also said that the extra Everglades money proposed in President Trump’s budget will go towards detailed design of the EAA reservoir south of the lake, and allow it to stay on track for completion in about eight years.

South Florida Water Management District Governing Board member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch said she flew over the lake two weeks ago and took pictures showing algae on the surface.

“There’s almost always algae in the lake but it’s been worse over the past few years," said Thurlow-Lippisch.

Thurlow-Lippisch and others, hoping to keep most of the lake water, in the lake.

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