Staff with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District continue to report no significant issues of concern following inspections of the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee in south Florida.
The Corps conducted daily inspections this week on the southern half of the dike, between Moore Haven and Port Mayaca. The Corps also conducted one inspection on the northern half of the dike, between Lakeport and Port Mayaca. Teams continue to report no issues with the structural integrity of the dike.
The lake has started falling in recent days, but remains at its highest levels since 2004. Teams reported multiple seepage sites, eight on the south side between Moore Haven and Belle Glade and two on the north side between Lakeport and Port Mayaca. Inspectors have observed no movement of material at any of the sites, thus no flood-fighting activities have been required.
“The safety of the people living and working around Lake Okeechobee remains our highest priority,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “We will continue to conduct inspections daily on the south side of the dike as long as the lake remains above 17 feet.”
The Corps continues to release as much water as practical through spillways at Moore Haven and Port Mayaca. Today’s stage is elevation 17.07 feet, down from a peak of 17.20 that occurred last week.
“Over the past week, we have seen inflows slow to the point that we’re releasing more water out of the lake than is coming in,” said Kirk. “However, we’re still seeing frequent rain events in the region and hurricane season has six weeks to go, so we must do our best to ensure storage is available to handle additional precipitation.”
The Corps continues work to rehabilitate the dike. Since 2001, the agency has invested more than $900 million in features to reduce the risk to communities surrounding the lake. This includes installation of a 21-mile seepage barrier (also known as a partial cutoff wall) along the southeast part of the dike and work to replace 26 water control structures at various locations around the lake.
“Our inspectors are reporting improved performance in the area where we’ve installed the seepage barrier,” said Kirk. “We look forward to resuming installation of additional cutoff wall west of Belle Glade in 2018. It is proving effective in reducing seepage.”
Additionally, Jacksonville District engineers and biologists continue work on ecosystem restoration in south Florida. The Corps awarded the final contract for Kissimmee River Restoration in September and work continues on the C-44 Reservoir component of the Indian River Lagoon-South project.
“As additional work is completed in the coming years, these projects will give water managers additional flexibility in how they move water throughout the system,” said Kirk. “The system designed for flood control in the 1950s and 60s has done a good job a reducing flood risk—by completing Everglades’ restoration projects, we reduce the environmental impacts of our current water management system while maintaining the same level of flood risk reduction.”
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.