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The History and Possible Future of Lake O Discharges

Franklin-Lock-spillway.jpg
Calusa Waterkeeper
Franklin Lock Spillway

Back in mid-October the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. And with Tropical Storm Eta dumping rain across the region they have continued, for now. The releases to the east and west are part of the equation for keeping the lake at a safe level, as rehabilitation continues on the aging Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds it.

But, freshwater from the lake has historically led to environmental problems in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary — and the St. Lucie — both because too much freshwater disrupts the salinity balance, and the lake water contains nutrients that have collected in it over the decades from fertilizer runoff and so it can fuel harmful algal blooms like the ones we saw most recently in 2018.

We explore the many overlapping issues that comprise south Florida’s water woes, and efforts to hopefully someday reduce the need for such massive releases from Lake Okeechobee with Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation.

Mike Kiniry is producer of Gulf Coast Live, and co-creator and host of the WGCU podcast Three Song Stories: Biography Through Music. He first joined the WGCU team in the summer of 2003 as an intern while studying Communication at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Julie Glenn is the News Director and the host of Gulf Coast Live. She joined the WGCU team in November of 2016 to expand the Gulf Coast Live call-in radio show from once a week to five days a week. Since then, the show has been recognized in state and regional competitions and has featured artists, political leaders, historians, environmental experts, doctors, local reporters, and national and international scholars. After leading the station's award-winning coverage of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, Julie was named Interim News Director. In January of 2018, she launched WGCU's first podcast: Grape Minds.