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USACE increases Lake Okeechobee releases

By USACE - | Feb 12, 2021

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District reported that it will increase Lake Okeechobee releases to the west and south beginning Feb. 13 as part of planned deviation approved in September to reduce the risk of lake releases during the rainy season when harmful algal blooms are more likely to be present.

The releases to the Caloosahatchee Estuary will increase to 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the current rate of 1,500 cfs from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). Additionally, releases south from the lake began last week at about 200 cfs and while they fluctuate based on conditions, are expected to increase as capacity opens in the stormwater treatment areas over the coming months. No scheduled lake releases are currently planned from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80).

The releases are part of a September approved planned deviation from the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule to reduce the risk of exacerbating potential health concerns associated with algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries during the summer.

“We have seen some recession in the lake, but our analysis indicates we are potentially looking at starting the Hurricane Season this year with a lake around 14 feet, which increases that chance that we will need to make releases next summer when algal blooms are more likely to be present on the lake,” Jacksonville District Commander Col. Andrew Kelly said. “Conditions in the Caloosahatchee have recovered over the past few weeks, and we believe after discussing with partners and stakeholders that this is a good time to bring flows up as long as we remain within the optimum range of flows for the Caloosahatchee.”

As of today, the lake stage was at 15.39 feet. While that indicates the lake has fallen by .28 feet in the past 30 days, it was still 2.45 feet higher than it was last year and 2.70 feet higher than two years ago.

For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.