U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warns mariners, public about dangerous low water levels across state
JACKSONVILLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, cautions mariners, property owners and the public to be mindful of low water level conditions when planning and conducting activities in, on or near lakes and waterways across the entire lower portion of the Florida peninsula.
Most of the south Florida region has experienced extremely low precipitation in the last few weeks. This lack of rainfall in the early days of the wet season has contributed to a prolonged, record-setting dry period, resulting in dangerously low water levels.
During such low water conditions, bad weather can have an immediate impact on vessels. Heavy winds can cause boats to run aground as resulting wave action causes depth of the water to be substantially reduced.
The Notice to Navigation is a guide for daily locking times at St. Lucie Lock and W.P. Franklin Locks in relation to lake levels. Based on that guide, at lake levels of 10.5 to 9 feet, there will be two lockages per day at 9 a.m. and at 4 p.m. at St. Lucie and W.P. Franklin Locks. At a lake level below 9 feet, there will be only one daily lockage at noon. Though the corps will not close the waterway to navigation, it will simply become the de facto status should water levels get too low.
Lake Okeechobee today stands at 9.73 feet NGVD and continues to drop. A lake elevation of 9.73 feet results in a channel depth of approximately 3.67 feet on Route 1 of the Okeechobee Waterway, which crosses the lake. The Route 2, or Rim Canal, channel depth is currently approximately 1.87 feet.
Mariners are advised that if they decide to cross Lake Okeechobee they are doing so at their own risk, and are warned not to leave the Route 1 channel, to avoid uncharted waters and be aware that depths could change without notice.
Additional information concerning Lake Okeechobee, the Okeechobee Waterway and related navigation bulletins may be obtained on Jacksonville District’s website at:
www.saj.usace.army.mil/Divisions/Operations/Branches/Navigation/NavNotices.htm or by calling 904-232-2236.