Corps reduces releases to Caloosahatchee estuary
On April 2, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District reported that it will reduce flows from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) to the Caloosahatchee estuary to a seven-day average rate of 457 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the 650 cfs it had been releasing for much of the dry season.
Flows to the St. Lucie estuary remain at zero cfs as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80).
The schedule will remain in effect until further notice.
Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets. The Corps will continue to closely monitor conditions and coordinate with its partners at the South Florida Water Management District to re-evaluate releases weekly.
March was one of the driest on record with only 10 percent of average rainfall and high evapotranspiration, driving Lake Okeechobee elevation down 0.77 feet for the 30 days leading up to April 1. The lake elevation on April 1 was 11.87 feet, only slightly above the Water Shortage Management Band of the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule.
“This is a minor alteration to the actions we’ve been taking since the dry season began. Specifically, we are reducing release quantities from 600 cfs to 450 cfs in order to conserve water for water supply,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said. “After the driest March in the last 90-plus years, we’ve seen the recession rate on the lake increase in the past few weeks and we anticipate the lake levels this year to be very similar to last year when the wet season arrives. A lot can change, of course, but we’re taking the next step to continue to conserve water.”
The report for the week ending March 24 issued by its partners at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection stated that the most recent viable satellite imagery indicated harmful algal bloom potential was low to moderate on Lake Okeechobee and no significant bloom potential was observed in the areas of the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie rivers and estuaries visible to satellite.