The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will continue its efforts to reduce water levels in Lake Okeechobee this dry season. The Corps plans to continue a push to send water south from the lake and maintain the current release rate to the Caloosahatchee River while making a slight adjustment in flows to the St. Lucie Canal to accommodate oyster spawning.
Starting Saturday, March 16, the Corps will maintain the current pulse release to the Caloosahatchee estuary at a 7-day average rate of 1,800 cubic feet per second from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). The Corps will reduce the flows to the St. Lucie estuary down to an average 7-day pulse release of 250 cubic feet per second as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). This decision will be reviewed again next week. Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets.
“Our strategy to reverse the rise of the lake has been successful so far,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “We’ve been able to bring the lake down more than a half foot over the past three weeks. We’re going to continue our current pulse release to the Caloosahatchee while making a slight adjustment to the St. Lucie release to help with oyster spawning in the estuary. An additional two to three inches of rain is forecast, which will increase the runoff in area canals. Should the rain develop as forecast, we will have difficulty in taking the lake lower, so we want to continue releasing water while the opportunity remains.”
Kelly says the Corps doesn’t intend to drive the water level to a specific target. “We are looking for results, rather than trying to hit a specific number,” he said.
Today’s lake stage is 12.33 feet above sea level, which is in Operational Beneficial Use Sub-Band. During the past week, lake levels were reduced by 0.24 feet, with an overall 0.36 foot reduction in the past 30 days. The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary. Any changes in flows to the estuaries will be announced to the public.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.