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Heavy Rains Prompt Army Corps To Start Releasing Water From Lake Okeechobee

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NASA JOHNSON
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FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
Lake Okeechobee from above.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday it will begin releasing water Friday from Lake Okeechobee because of concerns over rising water levels.

While it's not unusual to discharge water during periods of heavy rain, it is unusual to start this early in the summer. 

"Historic rain across the region since the middle of May has caused the lake to rise more than a foot," said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander, in a press release. "We have to be prepared for additional water that could result from a tropical system."

Kirk said the lake is currently above where it was when Irma struck last September, which eventually caused the water level to exceed 17 feet.

"A similar storm could take the lake to higher levels," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to release water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. In 2016, water drained into estuaries led to blue-green algae blooms along Florida’s east coast. The algae killed fished, sickened residents and hurt tourism during the normally lucrative July 4 weekend.