More polluted water to be flushed from Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will increase polluted water flushed from Lake Okeechobee to the Treasure Coast to the maximum allowed Friday to ease pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover dike.

In the past month, water level in the lake has jumped nearly a foot, rising .21 feet in just the last week. At 15.57 feet Thursday, that puts the lake above the level considered safe for the dike, which is in the midst of a massive rehab. Since 2001, the Corps has spent about $800 million on repairs and will spend another $800 million in coming years.

The increased flushing is expected to dump more than 13,000 gallons per second in the St. Lucie River, raising the threat to the troubled estuary. Over the summer, repeated releases helped trigger a brutal algae bloom that turned water a putrid green. Run-off from heavy rain could bring even more polluted water, Corps officials warned.

In addition to upping releases, the Corps will also increase inspections of the dike, Jacksonville District Acting Operations Chief Candida Bronson said.

“Increasing flows from the lake now allows us to slow the rise to put us in the best position to handle heavy rain events that might develop in the final few weeks of wet season,” she said in a statement.