All this rain we’ve been having is paying off for Lake Okeechobee, according to the news, like this article in the Orlando Sentinel. Thanks to the rain, water is flowing from the Kissimmee River south into the lake — for the first time in eight months! Lake O is still three to four feet below normal, the article says.
Water flow into and out of Lake O is a sensitive subject. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s just a tiny bit of history. Water used to flow naturally into the lake from Central Florida rivers, then south into the Everglades and on into Florida Bay. But after hurricanes caused the lake to flood the farming communities that had sprung up around the lake — especially the 1928 hurricane that killed around 2,500 people — the lake was dammed. Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the flow of water. Too little or too much water, and the ecosystem can suffer. Many people who live to the east and west of the lake, where the Caloosahatchee River flows into the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Lucie River flows out to the Atlantic Ocean, are concerned about water releases into these rivers. Too little water into the Everglades can cause saltwater intrusion and may be one of the reasons Florida Bay is suffering. Maintaining a water-flow balance seems hard. The Army Corps is said to be looking into new ways to maintain a better balance. Let’s hope so, for the sake of our rivers, estuaries and Everglades.