Palm Beach County set to urge feds: fix Lake Okeechobee dike now

DikeFail

(US Army Corps of Engineers graphic)

Palm Beach County Commissioners are expected Tuesday to tell the federal government: Free up money to finish fixes to the Lake Okeechobee dike before something bad happens.

The commission is set at its regular meeting to vote on a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to find the money for the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project, the first major rehab in some 75 years, and calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to expedite its repairs to the dike to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare of the cities surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the Corps’ ability to manage the lake’s water level in a way that will significantly reduce the impact to the coastal estuaries,” an agenda item says.

The first part of that refers to concerns about breaches in the dike during the hurricane season; it’s just now starting its busiest stretch. The second part is related: heavy rains have left the giant lake swollen and high, and to reduce pressure on the dike, the Corps has been sending millions of gallons of fresh water down to the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart and the Caloosahatchee estuary in Fort Myers, where the imbalance altered the fresh-salt mix, endangering plant and animal life and leading to a massive, odorous and ugly algae bloom that’s devastated the Treasure Coast economy.