Southeast
Eric Hasert / TCPalm

FL - Releases From Lake Okeechobee: We Can’t Stop the Rain, But We Can Slow the Flow | Opinion

If you make a living on the water like I do or care about our Florida waters, you’ve watched this hurricane season closely.

Even though we’ve mainly been spared the brunt of these storms thus far, our state has absolutely been inundated with excess water on top of our normal daily thunderstorms.    

Much of this rainfall drains south from Orlando through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes straight into Lake Okeechobee. More than 95% of the water entering Lake O comes from the northern tributaries, and since that drainage area is six times larger than the Lake — for every inch of rain that flows from north of the lake, the lake can rise six inches.

So, if we’re going to fix the water quantity and quality issues caused throughout our system by all this water, we’ve got to stop most of this water at the source before it ever reaches Lake Okeechobee.    

Right now, the greater Everglades system is fully saturated — from top to bottom, Orlando to Key West — including the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park (which cannot receive more water to the south). There is literally nowhere for the water to go but out to tide.

With Lake Okeechobee above 15 feet and rapidly rising, the Army Corps of Engineers is considering releasing excess water east and west into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers because the dike is not yet secure.  

No one wants damaging discharges, but Lake Okeechobee is not to blame for too much rain and a saturated system. We need to prevent water from the Kissimmee Basin from free flowing into Lake Okeechobee by slowing it down and storing it north of the lake.

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