Corps takes action to lower Lake Okeechobee in advance of wet season
ARTICLE REFERENCE: Corps takes action to lower Lake Okeechobee in advance of wet seasonSugar’s decades-long hold over Everglades came with a price
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will increase flows from Lake Okeechobee to stem the recent rise in water levels and to reduce the probability of high-volume releases during the wet season.
The Corps will use Additional Operational Flexibility as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to increase flows for the next three weeks. Starting Saturday, February 23, and continuing for the next 21 days, the Corps will release water to the Caloosahatchee estuary at an average rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, and to the St. Lucie estuary from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) at an average rate of 500 cubic feet per second. Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets.
“The lake has risen more than a half-foot over the past month,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “While we have moved more water south since the end of wet season, rain over the past few weeks has stopped the recession we saw in the lake levels earlier in dry season. We are taking this action to stem the rise in the lake and achieve a typical recession again so we can potentially avoid significant releases during the hot summer months.”
The goal of utilizing additional operational flexibility in the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (2008 LORS) is to help lower the lake during levels during dry season. El Niño conditions, which have the potential to produce a wetter than normal dry season have developed in south Florida, fueling much of the precipitation that has occurred over the past month.
“We anticipate additional rain in the next week,” said Kelly. “We know that oyster spawning season is coming, and we want to release water while we have the opportunity. We will consider this effort to be a success if we can get through the summer without having to make high-volume releases while harmful algal blooms are on the lake.”
Today’s lake stage is 12.86 feet above sea level, which is in Operational Base-Flow Sub-Band. During the past week, lake levels rose 0.09 feet, with an overall 0.57 foot rise in the past 30 days.
In addition to the flows east and west, we are working with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District to send more water south from the lake.
We will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary. However, assuming no adjustments are made, after three weeks we will review our progress and determine whether any changes are needed. Any changes in flows to the estuaries will be announced to the public.
Previous Release Decisions:
Starting Friday, February 1, a pulse release was implemented with a target 7-day average flows of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) near Fort Myers, continuing the use of Additional Operational Flexibility. The St. Lucie target remained at zero cfs.
A new release schedule began on Friday, January 25, with a constant release of 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers. The St. Lucie target remained at zero cfs.
Beginning on Friday, January 11, a seven-day pulse release schedule began with a target flow averaging 850 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers. The St. Lucie target remained at zero cfs.
Starting Friday October 5, the Corps began a gradual 3-week transition to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee by implementing 7-day pulse releases with an average target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam (S-79) near Fort Myers, and zero cfs for the St. Lucie Estuary as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart. Average target flows to the Caloosahatchee were stepped down to 1,500 cfs on October 12, and 1,000 cfs on October 19, while the St. Lucie target remained at zero cfs.
The Corps had maintained the 7-day average pulse release schedule of 1,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee Estuary since October 19.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.
For more information regarding the upcoming public scoping meetings for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), visit: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM.
Release no. 19-013