Lake O within low sub band of regulation schedule
The Director of Natural Resources delivered some encouraging news about the excessive flows that have been released from Lake Okeechobee since Hurricane Irma impacted the area.
Natural Resources Director James Evans said on Tuesday, Dec. 5, Lake Okeechobee was 15.94 feet, which is within the low sub band of the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule. The lake had dropped approximately a foot since the last City Council meeting in November.
“The lake is currently about one and a quarter feet higher than it was this time last year and about 1.34 feet higher than it was in 2015,” Evans said.
Target discharges to the Caloosahatchee at the Moore Haven Lock structure was reduced on Dec. 1 from a target discharge of 6,500 cubic feet per second to 4,000 cubic feet per second. Evans said that is a pretty significant reduction.
The target discharges in the St. Lucie estuary was reduced from 2,800 cubic feet per second to 1,800 cubic feet per second.
“As of today a little over 1,000 cfs is being sent to the Everglades Agricultural area, primarily being sent for water supply purposes, which is helping to get the lake down faster,” Evans said, along with the evaporation that is taking place in the lake with the warmer temperatures and dryer conditions.
During the past week, he said the flows at the Franklin Lock averaged about 5,900 cubic feet per second, which is down from about 10,000 cfs reported last month. Approximately 86 percent of the flow coming from Lake O, Evans said, which means they are not getting a lot of watershed runoff from the Caloosahatchee basin.
Average flows are still more than two times the harm threshold for the Caloosahatchee estuary, which is 2,800 cfs.
“This is resulting in low salinity throughout the estuary and the bay. Water clarity in San Carlos Bay at this time still remains relatively poor, but certainly is improving with the lower flows. We can expect to see those conditions improve as the lake continues to drop,” Evans said.
On Tuesday, he said it was likely that the flows would be furthered reduced into the estuary.
“The west coast scientist have really made recommendations to step those flows down, so they are not like a light switch where you go from really high flows to really low flows. We would like to see them get the lake a little lower, which will provide us a little buffer in the spring when they start to draw the lake down really quickly,” Evans said.
If the area does not see any major rainfall in the next two weeks, or so, the lake should go down to 15 and a half feet. Evans said if it does drop to this amount, that would take them to the range of 650 cubic feet per second, which means they are at the lower end of the flows that they need for lower salinity.
He expects this will happen in January.