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Army Corps to reduce Lake O discharges beginning today

By Staff | Mar 4, 2016

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday that, starting today, it will begin reducing the amount of water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

The Corps says it will reduce discharges into the Caloosahatchee by more than half, from 9,000 cubic feet of water per second to 4,000, and discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary by nearly three-quarters from 6,971 cubic feet per second to 1,800.

“This is certainly welcome news for all those whose livelihoods depend on these waterways,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, a long-time supporter of Everglades restoration projects to help alleviate the need to release water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, in a prepared statement. “But we’ve still got work to do. We’ve got to keep the pressure on lawmakers to fund these Everglades-restoration projects that will provide a more permanent solution to the problem.”

Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, who traveled to West Palm Beach Thursday to address the Water Resources Advisory Commission about the Lake Okeechobee releases, took a similar view.

“The Corps took a step in the right direction today,” Hamman said in a prepared statement released following the meeting. “But we’ve been receiving maximum discharges for a month in our estuary and local businesses are feeling the effects. The best thing to do now is to cut off the releases as soon as possible.”

He had traveled to West Palm to make the case for lower-volume water releases.

“These maximum releases heading to Lee County right now are about twice what the regulation schedule calls for,” Hamman had said in his comments to the WRAC. “Can the Corps significantly cut back on the discharges and save what’s left of our tourist season?”

As the WRAC discussed Hamman’s comments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that they will be reducing the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee beginning this weekend.

Meanwhile, efforts continue at the state and federal level to address the issue longterm.

Last month, Nelson introduced legislation to expedite all Everglades-restoration projects that the Army Corps of Engineers deems ready to begin in the next five years.

One of the projects that would be authorized immediately if Nelson’s legislation passes is the Central Everglades Planning Project, or CEPP, which is designed to increase water flow south into the Everglades, thereby reducing harmful discharges into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie estuary, his office said.

Sources: Office of Sen. Bill Nelson, Office of Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, District 4