As it swept across the state – Hurricane Wilma dropped about a foot of rain on Lake Okeechobee…and may have caused a “sloshing effect”. Water managers say this could mean more problems for the already-troubled body of water…and to the rivers and estuaries to its east & west.
For the second time in as many years, hurricane-force winds have stirred up nutrient-rich sediments from the bottom of Lake Okeechobee.
Randy Smith is spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District.
“We’re still assessing the damage – but we do know that hurricane winds from Wilma created a rise in the water level on one side, and lowered it on the other…so we probably had some sloshing affect. And that stirs up sediment that hasn’t been disturbed – before last year’s hurricanes – for probably 50 or 60 years.”
Smith says freeing these sediments from the lake bottom decreases the lake’s water quality. Wilma moved across the state quickly, so the amount of rainwater that fell on the lake was low. But it still raised water levels to about 16-and-a-half feet.
Because of this, managers began releasing water from the lake down the Caloosahatchee River on Sunday. Smith says several factors will determine how long the releases continue.
“We’re going to have to see how mother nature works with us as far as the rainfall amounts we get – how effective the evaporation rate is. The intent is to decrease the amount of the releases when the lake starts to show signs of going back down.”
Wilma also wreaked havoc on the district’s stormwater treatment marshes. The manmade filter marshes take nutrients out of lake water before it enters the Everglades.
Smith says the storm cut directly across the area where marshes are located. And while they’re still assessing damage, he says visual inspections show that much of the plant life used to take nutrients out of the water has been pushed up onto the banks. He says the district might have re-plant the marshes to help restore their effectiveness.
Friday, 04 November 2005 00:00