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Corps maintains schedule of no releases to estuaries

By Staff | Sep 30, 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District recently announced that there will be no planned releases from Lake Okeechobee this week.

“Due to drier conditions throughout the system, from the Kissimmee chain of lakes through Lake Okeechobee, the water conservation areas and South Dade, we are not planning any releases from the lake this week,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said in a prepared statement on Sept. 27. “We are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Karen and continue to monitor the Atlantic basin, where tropical activity remains high.”

“Ironically, the recent tropical storms seem to be pulling moisture away from Florida, rather than bringing us the rain we might have expected this time of year,” he added. “We’ll see what, if anything, Tropical Storm Karen brings, and adjust our release targets as necessary.”

As of Sept. 27, the stage at Lake Okeechobee was 13.69 feet, down 0.12 feet in the last week, but up 0.14 feet during the past 30 days.

Though no releases are being made out of Lake Okeechobee to manage lake levels, pool elevations along the Okeechobee waterway will continue to be maintained by lock operators on site. Low-level releases from Lake Okeechobee into the downstream canals may be necessary when pools get too low to maintain waterway navigability and safety, as well as provide water supply. Additionally, releases may be made at downstream structures in order to manage basin runoff and provide flood control along the waterway when pools get too high.

The Corps has not made targeted releases from the lake since July 12, with the exception of a brief 10-day average release of 200 cfs at the Moore Haven Lock and Dam to support a Corps algae research project.

Corps lock operators have 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 continues to decrease 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 two results pending.