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Corps of Engineers reduces Lake Okeechobee releases

By Staff | Aug 9, 2010

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers modified water releases from Lake Okeechobee on the morning of Aug. 6.  With Lake Okeechobee at 13.72 feet (NGVD), the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (2008 LORS) prescribes “base flows” to the estuaries. The new target release to the east is 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). To the west, the target flow is 450 cfs measured at the W.P Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) on the Caloosahatchee River.

“We’re very fortunate that weather conditions have allowed Lake Okeechobee water levels to go down,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kinard, deputy district engineer for South Florida. “This means we’re able to make these lower volume releases, but we also need to remain vigilant.  While we have capacity in the lake for a moderate storm event, we don’t yet have capacity for an extreme rain event.”   

On the July 23 start of the previous release cycle, the lake was at 14.10 ft. Release targets rates were 730 cfs and 2,000 cfs to the east and west, respectively.

“We’re glad we succeeded in drawing down the lake to today’s level, but a continued downward trend that increases storage capacity is still our goal.  We’re modifying the release profile to closely resemble a storm event with a sharp peak followed by some no-flow days during the 10-day cycle. We expect this to allow for some estuary recovery between releases," Kinard said.

The releases will be made in pulses that resemble the pattern of runoff resulting from a natural rainfall event. The Corps will decrease releases if runoff from local basins contributes to flows through the W.P Franklin and St. Lucie Locks.

As always, system conditions will be closely monitored. These releases will be maintained until a new recommendation is made based on changed conditions.

For more information on water level and flow data for Lake Okeechobee and the Central and Southern Florida Project, visit the Corps’ water management page at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Divisions/Engineering/Branches/WaterResources/WaterMgt/index.htm.  For questions and inquires, please contact Nanciann Regalado at 904-334-8954 (mobile) or nanciann.e.regalado@usace.army.mil.