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Council approves updated white papers

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution of endorsing the revised and updated Caloosahatchee River Watershed Regional Water Management white papers last week.

The updated document “sets forth short term and long term strategic planning goals to address water storage and treatment within the Kissimmee, Lake Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee Watersheds.”

“Thanks to you and James (Evans). It’s amazing a city of this size to have a dedicated staff who is the leading expert in this area. This is an excellent paper. Thanks for your work,” Council Member Chauncey Goss said.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said the Caloosahatchee River Watershed Regional Water Management (white paper) began after the releases in 2013 when it became apparent that there was not a document to provide an overview. He said it is probably the most comprehensive subject out there and the biggest issue they have in the Everglades Restoration in the United States.

“The paper is certainly a breathing document. We continue to look for items and avenues,” Ruane said.

He said everything in the white papers addresses solutions that they can implement, solutions that are in the integrated delivery schedule and solutions that are obtainable.

“There is an awful lot of conceptions out there and a lot of different propositions out there,” Ruane said. “We try to educate people and try to move forward.”

City of Sanibel Natural Resources Director James Evans provided an update of the Caloosahatchee and Lake Okeechobee water flow.

Lake Okeechobee was at 14.4 feet as of Tuesday, June 7, making it 1.83 feet higher than last year and a little more than 2 feet higher than it was in 2014.

“With a significant rain fall within the entire system, north of the lake, around the lake, and east and west of the lake, we’ve seen the lake rise by a little over a foot in the past month,” Evans said. “The lake is currently in the low subband of the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, but it is within 1 foot of the intermediate sub band. Because it is within one foot of the intermediate subband that has promoted the Army Corps to increase flows to the Caloosahatchee.”

The flows went from 2,000 cubic feet per second approximately two weeks ago to an increase of 4,000 cubic feet per second. Evans said that does not take into count watershed runoff, which means they can see significantly higher flows to the estuary.

The east coast also had increased water flows from 650 cubic feet per second to 1,800 cubic feet per second. Evans said on the east coast they measure at the estuary, so the watershed runoff is accounted for.

Flows at S79, Franklin Lock, averaged 4,821 cubic feet per second, which is almost two times the flow harm threshold of the estuary. Evans said they are seeing some decreased salinity, which he would like to see increase as the rainy season begins.

Flows at S77 were about 3,800 cubic feet per second. About 80 percent of the total flow coming to the Caloosahatchee estuary are coming from Lake Okeechobee. Evans said that will change once the wet season begins.

“Because we are entering the wet season with the lake significantly higher than water managers would like to see it for this time of year, I would certainly anticipate that we will continue to see higher flows at, or, above the current levels throughout the entire wet season,” he said. “Unless the La Nina conditions strengthen. The latest forecast I have seen for La Nina conditions looks like it is going to strengthen towards the end of the wet season. It doesn’t look like there is any relief on the horizon.”

Evans said they really need to put the pressure on water managers to store as much water as they can on public and private lands that are under contract with the Water Management District and move as much of that water south.

“We are going to need every bit of storage that we have in the system. We are going to have to continue to advocate for the solutions in the Caloosahatchee White Paper,” he said.

Ruane said storms like Tropical Storm Colin did not help the situation at all. He said they went from 14.30 feet to 14.40 feet over night at the lake. He said there is no solution at the moment especially with the rain events that have happened.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.