News Cast 4/5

News Cast for April 5th:

Vaccines will be available at the Agri-Civic Center on Tuesday, April 6th from 8am until all doses are given. Please check the Okeechobee County Government Facebook for updates. The vaccine is available to any individual over 18 years of age or older. This is the 1st dose of the Moderna Vaccine.

Army Corps reduces releases out of Lake

Releases out of Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers were reduced Saturday.

1,200 cubic feet per second is being sent out the Caloosahatchee and 300 cubic feet per second out the St. Lucie River.

The Corps said the releases could help reduce harmful algae blooms likely to be coming this summer.

The lake level stood at 14.44 feet on Friday.  The lake level has been reduced by 0.87 feet in the past month.  The levels are still 2.61 feet higher than it was one year ago.

“We constantly monitor conditions around Lake Okeechobee, and as evapotranspiration and dry conditions have accelerated the lake recession, we are reducing our releases to protect the nesting birds that have returned to the lake in large numbers for the first time in several years,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander.  “The lake is higher than we would like, but we must try to balance the ecology of the lake as well as the northern estuaries as we make efforts to reduce the lake level before the onset of the wet season.”

A study could help water qualities in lakes and rivers across Florida.

The University of Florida is conducting studies on the Guana River and Lake area in St. Johns County.

They received a $595,000 grant from the state to see if shell fish actually improve water quality.

Researcher Ashley Smith said shell fish do well in many areas of the state, “I think about shell fish in fresh water systems like the beaver mussel in Lake Erie.  Reports of this invasive mussel comes in and still have the filtration capacity to improve the water clarity.  We don’t have beaver mussel in salt water systems.  They don’t do really well in fresh water.  They need a certain salinity level to function.”

She said the data could help find ways to clean up the waters in Lake Okeechobee, “I think there is going to be connections that are obvious for the Lake Okeechobee watershed.  They include finding ways to do different storm water treatments or different restorations to help clean our waters.”

Firemen battle dangerous blaze that is suspected arson

An Okeechobee man is charged with arson in the second degree.

He is accused offsetting his own residence on fire.

Extensive damage was done in the blaze Friday evening at 1648 North West 45th Terrace.

No one was inside at the time.   There was no report of injury.

Matthew Tate allegedly admitted he set the home on fire and one witnesses claimed they saw him attempt to burn the home.

An Okeechobee Deputy that was rushing to the scene remembered seeing a person that matched Tate’s description walking in the middle of the street not far from the fire.

Okeechobee County Fire Rescue crews responded at 6:50 pm and found flames shooting eight feet out the front door and windows upon arrival.

The home was filled with smoke and 100 percent involved as they attacked the blaze.

The State Fire Marshall investigated the fire.

The fire crews reported there appeared to be multiple points of origin for the fire.