Army Corps increases discharges from Lake Okeechobee
On Feb. 22, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announced that it will increase flows from Lake Okeechobee to stem the recent rise in water levels and to reduce the probability of high-volume releases during the wet season.
According to a prepared statement, the Corps will use additional operational flexibility as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to increase flows for the next three weeks. Starting today and continuing for the next 21 days, the Corps will release water to the Caloosahatchee estuary at an average rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, and to the St. Lucie estuary from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-79) at an average rate of 500 cubic feet per second.
Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets, it reported.
“The lake has risen more than a half-foot over the past month,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said. “While we have moved more water south since the end of wet season, rain over the past few weeks has stopped the recession we saw in the lake levels earlier in dry season. We are taking this action to stem the rise in the lake and achieve a typical recession again so we can potentially avoid significant releases during the hot summer months.”
The goal of utilizing additional operational flexibility in the 2008 LORS is to help lower the lake during levels during dry season. El Nio conditions, which have the potential to produce a wetter than normal dry season have developed in South Florida, fueling much of the precipitation that has occurred over the past month.
“We anticipate additional rain in the next week,” Kelly said. “We know that oyster spawning season is coming, and we want to release water while we have the opportunity. We will consider this effort to be a success if we can get through the summer without having to make high-volume releases while harmful algal blooms are on the lake.”
As of Feb. 22, the lake stage is 12.86 feet above sea level, which is in Operational Base-Flow Sub-Band. During the past week, lake levels rose 0.09 feet, with an overall 0.57 foot rise in the past 30 days.
In addition to the flows east and west, the Corps reported that it is working with its partners at the South Florida Water Management District to send more water south from the lake.
It added that it will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary. However, assuming no adjustments are made, after three weeks it will review its progress and determine whether any changes are needed. Any changes in flows to the estuaries will be announced to the public.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the water management website at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.
For more information regarding the upcoming public scoping meetings for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual or LOSOM, visit: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM.