Corps continues Lake Okeechobee releases to Caloosahatchee
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District continued to release water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary this week and no releases to the St. Lucie Estuary, officials reported today in a prepared statement.
The releases began on Oct. 5 with a targeted pulse release to the Caloosahatchee estuary at a seven-day average rate of 650 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). No scheduled releases through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) were planned at this time. As always, flows at either the W.P. Franklin or St. Lucie structures could occasionally be exceeded by runoff from rain that accumulates in the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie basins, and those flows will be allowed to pass through the spillway as necessary. The Corps also will continue to release water when necessary to maintain navigation levels in the canals and to provide water supply.
“We are still concerned that Lake Okeechobee levels are lower than normal for this time of year, and we are monitoring conditions and forecasts,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said. “We are in a good position on the lake if we receive the average rainfall we historically get in October, but we will discontinue releases if we continue to see drier than normal conditions like we had in September.”
As of today, the stage at Lake Okeechobee was 13.49 feet, down 0.02 feet in the previous week, and down 0.47 feet during the past 30 days.
The Corps used its operational flexibility provided in the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to manage the lake at lower levels this year in an effort to improve lake ecology. Initial data indicates some successes for that strategy, particularly in regards to submerged aquatic vegetation. The Corps will share the outcomes of the strategy as more information becomes available and will use that data in developing the strategy for the upcoming dry season in order to balance the multiple project purposes of Lake Okeechobee water management.
Partners at the Department of Environmental Protection report that, according to the most recent viable satellite imagery, bloom potential is low on Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries remain free of bloom potential. However, bloom potential is subject to change rapidly due to environmental conditions.