Corps of Engineers starts another Lake Okeechobee release to benefit Caloosahatchee Estuary
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
will continue water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee
Estuary to help improve estuarine conditions, which have declined in recent
months due to the lack of sufficient freshwater. A new water release starts
tomorrow, Feb. 18.
The target flow of this release is an average of 300 cubic feet per
second (cfs) over a seven-day period to the Caloosahatchee River measured at
W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). The Corps anticipates the total pulse
release effect on the lake level to be about a sixth-of-an-inch off the lake.
Today, the lake stage is 12.34 feet (NGVD).
“We are seeing a slight improvement of the Caloosahatchee Estuary –
that’s to say its health is no longer declining as rapidly as it was. We
will provide another release of freshwater to the estuary so these benefits
continue. The mixing of this freshwater with seawater establishes salinity
levels that are essential to Caloosahatchee’s estuarine health, productivity
and function,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kinard, deputy district commander, south
The release will provide much needed support to the natural system,
while minimally impacting Lake Okeechobee’s water level, Kinard said.
Estuarine scientists say minimum freshwater releases to the
Caloosahatchee River are critical to maintaining estuarine health and
productivity. Freshwater tape grass, which provides important food and
nursery habitat for a multitude of organisms, is an indicator of conditions
in the Caloosahatchee’s upper estuary. Corps officials expect this week’s
low volume release to continue prolonging the benefit of lowered salinities,
reducing additional impacts and degradation of the freshwater tape grass and
other submerged aquatic vegetation.
The Corps strives to maintain the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet
(NGVD) while balancing all competing demands. At 12.34 feet (NGVD), Lake
Okeechobee’s level is in the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule’s
Beneficial Use Sub-Band, which varies seasonally between elevation 10.5 feet
and 13 feet.
Within this sub-band, unless releases are required for navigation
purposes, the Corps generally defers to the South Florida Water Management
District’s recommendation for water allocation to various users. Fish and
wildlife enhancement and/or water supply deliveries for environmental needs
may involve conducting an environmental release from the lake through the
SFWMD Adaptive Protocols for Lake Okeechobee Operations or other SFWMD
The Corps and partner agencies will continue to closely monitor and
assess system conditions.
For more information on water level and flows 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/