Corps maintains schedule of no releases to estuaries
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will maintain its current schedule of no releases to the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee, while continuing to send water south for water supply.
“We are going to maintain our decision of no water releases to the estuaries, and continue to send water south for water supply,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said in a prepared statement on Sept. 20. “We were actually able to send an average of 3,655 cubic feet per second south this past week.”
“Lake levels have stabilized since the beginning of September, and the forecast is for drier conditions, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “September is the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic and tropical activity remains high. We will continue to monitor conditions closely and adjust releases as necessary.”
As of Sept. 20, the stage at Lake Okeechobee was 13.81 feet, down 0.06 feet in the last week, but up 0.66 feet during the past 30 days.
The Corps has not made targeted regulatory releases from the lake since July 12, and has been managing basin runoff at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) and the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). The only lake releases since mid-July were a brief 10-day release of 200 cfs at the Moore Haven Lock and Dam to support an algae research project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center.
At current lake levels, the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule allows the release of a total of up to 650 cubic feet per second from the lake to the estuaries. Collaborative efforts by the South Florida Water Management District and the Corps to provide additional capacity in the system south of the lake have allowed the Corps to maximize releases south.
Corps lock operators have also reported visible signs of algae in the lake near Port Mayaca over the past week. Partners at the Department of Environmental Protection report that according to the most recent viable satellite imagery, bloom potential appears to have declined substantially in Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries remain free of bloom potential. However, bloom potential is subject to change rapidly due to environmental conditions such as wind, rain, temperature, or stage. DEP toxin sampling continues, with no recent samples showing toxin detects and 11 results pending.