LABELLE, Fla. — Built-in the early 1930s by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers, Herbert Hoover Dike, a 143-mile structure surrounding Lake Okeechobee helps reduce impacts of flooding for southern parts of Florida.
However, for Hendry and Glades County there is a scary risk of the dam not being able to hold all of the lake's water, causing a major catastrophe.
Don Duke a Professor of Environmental Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University says this is all too familiar for that area.
“Of course it was built in the 1930s as a direct response to the hurricanes of the 1926 and 28 and the terrible loss of life that occurred from that,” said Don Duke, Professor of Environmental Studies, FGCU.
“Cultural memory of those really bad disasters tends to color our perceptions today of, oh what would happen if that were to happen again”, said Duke.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells us based on the current forecast and the lake level, they don't anticipate any releases from the lake to the estuaries before or during Isaias.
“ All of the water control structures on the lake have been closed at this point. However, heavy rains in the basins could raise the levels in the C-43 and C-44 canals, which will require the operators to open S-79 and S-80 for flood protection along the canals. We can't predict the future, so we will assess the conditions following the storm and let the public know if we need to make any operational changes,” said Amanda Parker, Public Information Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Duke tells us the repairs for this dam, are time-consuming, costly, yet necessary.
“Once a dam is in place you have to work with what is already there, but the kinds of upgrades that need to take place have to happen while the flood protection that the dam is providing is still there,” said Duke.
“From what I understand it’s a billion and a half dollars to do the upgrades,” said Duke.
The U.S. Army Corps tells us they are keeping a watchful eye on the dam, to ensure the safety for all nearby residents at this time.
“Our operations team is in constant contact with NOAA on the forecast, and they are tracking any changes in expected wind speeds and rainfall amounts. We anticipate no problems with HHD or any of the active construction sites along. We urge residents to monitor communications from their county leaders for warnings about potential flooding or evacuations,” said Parker.