GLADES COUNTY, Fla. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced that the flow of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into rivers to the east and west will be reduced by about 25% starting Friday.
Residents along both coasts have been complaining about the water releases pushing brown fresh water into coastal estuaries.
According to the Corps of Engineers, the amount of water being released westward into the Caloosahatchee River will be reduced from 4,000 cubic feet per second to 3,000 cfs, which is about 1.9 billion gallons a day.
Water flowing east into the St. Lucie River will be reduced from 1,800 cfs to 1,170 cfs, or about 756 million gallons a day.
The water releases began on June 1st, and caused the waters around Sanibel Island near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee to turn dark brown.
The Corps of Engineers say the water releases are necessary to keep Lake Okeechobee at safe water levels.
"The discharges over the past three weeks have stopped the rise in the lake," said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. "Inflows have also slowed since late May. Based on current conditions, the guidance under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule calls for reduced flows."
The Corps is working with state officials to determine what other actions can be taken to address water management challenges in south Florida.