Originally published by The News-Press on September 7, 2022 by Chad Gillis

Lake Okeechobee levels are low with only six weeks left in the rainy season, a scenario that could put sea grasses, oysters and marine critters that rely on the Caloosahatchee River estuary in trouble.

Summer is typically the time of year when Okeechobee releases blast down the channelized portion of the river, sending whitewater flows through the Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva.

But this year, lake levels are low at 12.6 feet above sea level, just above the lower end of the management spectrum. Those levels usually aren’t seen until the late spring, well into the dry season.

River advocates say the Army Corps has done a better job in recent years at providing the river with the needed water during dry times.

“What the Corps is trying to do is use their additional flexibility to hit a sweet spot,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. “If we get a hurricane and a lot of rain, that is going to fill the lake too fast; but if it stops raining and the lake stays low, there isn’t enough water for water supply and for natural systems. They’re walking the fence.”

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