The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has announced they will begin maximizing flows from Lake Okeechobee to manage the rising lake levels and prepare for potential tropical storm activity.
The Corps will begin maximizing discharges today (July 25) in accordance with the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), the master plan for water management of the lake. Today, the lake stage is 15.62 feet. The change in the release rate is the result of the lake level being projected to enter the High Lake Management Band within the next 30 days.
“Lake Okeechobee continues to rise at approximately one-half foot per week,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District Commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It is imperative that we take additional measures to control the rise of the lake to ensure we have enough storage capacity for not only the potential tropical storm activity we will receive from the latest system, but also for future rain events as well.”
Under maximum releases, the total discharge rate will vary based on downstream conditions. These releases will continue until the lake level falls into the low sub-band. Additionally, all available land for water storage is being used and discharges from the Water Conservation Areas are being maximized. Currently, the Water Conservation Areas are above their Regulation Schedules.
The releases from the lake are necessary to keep water levels from getting too high, putting additional pressure on Herbert Hoover Dike, the 143-mile flood-control structure surrounding the lake. The dike, parts of which date back to the 1930s, suffers from seepage and internal erosion problems during high pools due to construction methods that were used at that time.
The Corps is concerned that high water levels would increase internal erosion to the point it could lead to a breach of the dike, the risk of this becomes significantly higher once the lake goes above 17 feet. Weekly inspections of the dike began Monday, July 22 when the lake reached 15.5 feet, in accordance with the Herbert Hoover Dike Surveillance Plan. In accordance with the plan, frequency of the inspections will increase as lake levels increase during the hurricane season.
Public safety remains the Corps’ top priority. The Corps will continue to monitor and make adjustments as necessary. For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Jacksonville District’s water management page: