USACE announces plan for dry season flows to Caloosahatchee
Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District reported on a plan to increase the amount of water being released from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly announced the target flow to the estuary would increase to a seven-day average pulse release of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers. The USACE does not currently plan to release water from the lake through St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. However, runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets as the water is allowed to pass through the spillway gates at the Franklin or St. Lucie lock and dam structures.
“The lake is still high for this time of year,” Kelly said. “As a result, we believe this is the time to start additional releases as authorized by the deviation, previously approved in 2020, which allows us to increase releases now to provide increased flexibility to hold back in the summer when the risk of algae in the lake is much greater.”
As of Jan. 29, the lake stage was 15.52 feet, the second-highest level for that time of year since the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) was adopted.
Kelly said the upcoming releases are part of a dry-season strategy which increases releases to the west in February with the intent of decreasing flows to the Caloosahatchee over the coming months as additional capacity develops in the Central Everglades. The Central Everglades, made up of the Water Conservation Areas south of the lake, remain above the regulation schedule but are recovering and anticipated to start the spring recession soon. Water is also expected to leave the lake as evapotranspiration and water use ramps up toward the end of the dry season. The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary based on LORS guidance described in the 2020 Planned Deviation to the 2008 LORS.