FL - Algae bloom conditions intensify in Lake Okeechobee, making discharges 'possible'

PORT MAYAKA, Fla. (CBS12) — Hot temperatures over the past week have led to a concerning concentration of cyanobacteria and algae in Lake Okeechobee, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

A new NOAA image shows about 75 percent of the lake has a high potential for algae and cyanobacteria blooms.

This comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers switched gears and announced Monday on a phone conference call that Lake Okeechobee releases to the west and to the east (the St. Lucie River that weaves throughout the Treasure Coast) are possible this summer if the lake continues to steadily rise at its current rate.

“I feel there is no need whatsoever for the Army Corps of Engineers to entertain the idea of releasing Lake Okeechobee water to the St. Lucie estuary when the Lake reaches the 13 to 15 foot elevation,” said Mike Conner, Executive Director of Indian Riverkeeper. “The Lake already has a formidable Cyanobacteria bloom with microcystin present, and it will likely worsen as summer progresses.”

No water from the lake has been released east to the Treasure Coast since March 2019. In the past, the discharges were believed to be the catalyst of local toxic waterways.

“We would demand the the Corps explore other options for moving water out of Lake Okeechobee to spare coastal residents the impacts of this health risk,” Conner said.

See article with video.