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More water - and toxic algae - released from Lake Okeechobee

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MIAMI (AP) — Goopy green water flowed Friday from both sides of Lake Okeechobee, carrying toxic algae toward Florida's coasts.

Col. Jason Kirk of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the pulsing water flows will simulate rainfall. By varying the flows, they hope to reduce environmental problems.

Kirk says they need to flush the lake to reduce flood risks as water levels rise. Its aging dike was built after flooding unleashed by two catastrophic hurricanes killed thousands of people in the 1920s.

Coastal communities say previous discharges spread toxic algae, threatening tourism and health. Both Republican and Democratic political candidates are making the discharges a campaign issue.

The Trump administration has approved a new reservoir to store more water south of the lake, but it awaits passage in Congress.

Some in Sarasota feel the discharges from Lake Okeechobee are affecting the red tide along the Suncoast. However, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says "there is no direct link between nutrient pollution and the frequency or severity of red tides caused by K. brevis."

According to FWC, Florida red tides develop 10-40 miles offshore, away from man-made nutrient sources. And red tides occurred in Florida long before human settlement, and severe red tides were observed in the mid-1900s before the state’s coastlines were heavily developed. You can learn more about red tide here.

In a report released Friday on the latest red tide conditions, the FWC found background concentrations in one sample collected from Manatee County, background to medium concentrations in 17 samples collected from Sarasota County, and very low to high concentrations in five samples collected from or offshore of Charlotte County.

FWC says that over the past week, fish kills were reported in:

Manatee County:

  • Manatee Public Beach

Sarasota County:

  • Casey Key
  • Manasota Beach
  • Nokomis Beach
  • Siesta Key Beach
  • Venice Beach
  • Venice North Jetty

Charlotte County:

  • Englewood Beach
  • Manasota Key
  • Lemon Bay

And respitory irriation was reported in:

Sarasota County:

  • Lido Key
  • Manasota Beach
  • Nokomis
  • Siesta Key
  • Venice Beach
  • Venice North Jetty