Lake Okeechobee is an Enormous Problem:
Lake Okeechobee is enormous. Covering over 720 square miles, it’s no wonder Okeechobee is called Florida’s inland sea. My god there is over a trillion gallons of water there. But Okeechobee is also an enormous problem.
The water’s of the lake are held back by earthen dam know as the Herbert Hoover dike. While the lake is a shallow body of water of about 9 feet, each year the rains of spring and summer push the lake higher, reaching 15, 16 feet or more. At present due to the record rain falls of May 2018, the lake is 17 feet, something not seen in 50 years. And we are in hurricane season too, a time when torrential rain events can happen at any time.
Given the poor condition of the dike ( It will take another 5 years to repair it) the Army Corp of Engineers has to be proactive release lake water in an effort to avoid a dike break that would threaten thousands of lives in the surrounding towns as well as the sugar cane industry nearby.
Some of the release goes eastward into the St. Lucie Estuary and some flows southward toward the Everglades, but most goes westward down the Caloosahatchee Rivers, exiting out onto Florida’s fabulously Treasure Coast. ( There it turns the the beautiful crystal water of the Gulf of Mexico around Sanibel and Captiva into a disgusting brown soup. Worse yet the lake water is loaded with pollutants, most notably agricultural runoff from local farming and the sugar industry. And along with these pollutants the lake releases its enormous algae blooms, at present estimated to cover 102 square miles! All of it arriving on the coast poisoning the ecosystem, killing marine live and tourism. What a disaster!
The time is long over due for the state of Florida government to truly face the problem. Yes as we speak some political efforts are being made both in Tallahassee and Washington DC, but only after a huge outcry from the population. And it is also high time for the Florida legislature to realize that the sugar industry has become too powerful in Tallahassee. The industries pervasive lobbying efforts coupled with their generous offers of campaign cash has corrupted the system from the governor’s office on down. In turn the industry has prevented any serious Okeechobee water release reform that might effect their business. These companies are U.S. Sugar, the Sugar Growers of Florida Cooperative, and the Fanjul Corporation, collective referred to as “Big Sugar”, and behind closed doors as “the sugar racket”.
Post Script: Unfortunately more bad news. Red tide continues along our coast. Remember it arrived in late November and and should have been gone in a matter of weeks? But here we are six months later and the problem remains. Where the freak is this all headed? Is red tide poised to become a year-round phenomena?
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