As Hurricane Dorian makes its way toward Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is preparing to respond as needed and providing information to the public, including boaters and campers, on operational adjustments that will take place at Herbert Hoover Dike, Corps water control structures, navigation locks, and recreation facilities.
The Jacksonville District activated its emergency operations center (EOC) Aug. 26 at 8 a.m. This action allows district staff to devote added attention to the hurricane response actions that are necessary as Hurricane Dorian impacts Florida.
“Our staff is coordinating with state and local officials,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District commander. “We are adjusting our operations to ensure the safety of those who use our facilities and our staff in south Florida.”
Jacksonville District is issuing the following guidance on its operations in south Florida:
• We urge residents to pay attention to the news and follow any county evacuation orders for areas near Lake Okeechobee if any are issued.
• For Hurricane Dorian and other major storm events, we work closely with our partners at the state and local levels to ensure common understanding of risk levels before, during, and after events.
• Inspection teams completed their pre-storm inspections of Herbert Hoover Dike and report no issues with the dike at this time. The goal of our inspections is to detect minor issues and address them before they develop into major problems. As the lake level rises, we have a system in place to increase the frequency of inspections on the dike so that any issues are detected quickly.
• The current lake stage is 13.66 feet. Current indicators are the lake will receive approximately three feet of water over the next 30 days from Hurricane Dorian rainfall and inflow from north of the lake.
• The Jacksonville District will not make pre-storm releases from Lake Okeechobee. After the storm, we anticipate high-flow releases to the east and west from Lake Okeechobee will be required. Downstream flooding conditions will be evaluated before making any releases.
• Canal levels along the Okeechobee Waterway (i.e. C-43 and C-44) will be managed at lower levels to help build additional capacity in anticipation of this event.
• The district plans to hold public conference calls beginning the second week of September to keep the public informed of the volume and timing of the high-flow releases.
• The deadline will be extended on the draft Environmental Assessment for a proposed deviation from Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008 that is currently available for public comment. That period of public comment was extended by 15 more days through Sept. 20. Learn more at https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Deviations/.
• We will be updating information on our website at https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/storms/ as more details become available. You can also follow us on Twitter @JaxStrong or like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict.
• The Corps will extend operating hours for its navigation locks on the Okeechobee Waterway beginning Aug. 29, 2019. The locks will operate from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
• For the safety of the lock operators, the Jacksonville District will suspend operations when lightning is in the area, when winds reach 35 miles per hour, or eight hours before the storm is scheduled to hit the lock area.
• Visit https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Navigation/Notices-to-Navigation/ for updated notices to navigation on changing conditions.
• For campers and visitors to recreation sites, Jacksonville District park rangers will monitor conditions at Corps’ campgrounds and recreation areas.
• If a county government issues an evacuation order for mobile homes or RV parks in an area where there is a Corps’ campground or recreational facility, rangers will order an evacuation of the facility and advise on shelter locations.
• Visitors should move all campers, motor homes, tents, vessels, and trailers from facilities under evacuation orders.
• Campers will receive full refunds for any cancelled reservations and should monitor https://www.recreation.gov for reopening information.
Coastal Shore Protection Projects:
• Jacksonville District is currently working on 15 coastal shore protection projects with $460 million in contracts on Florida beaches.
• We have 6 teams coastal engineers standing by to inspect those projects as soon as it is safe to do so. Inspection teams will survey the project and assess if any changes to the plan are necessary after the storm.
More information on Jacksonville District response actions can be found at www.saj.usace.army.mil. We will be communicating whenever possible through our social media channels. Like and Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict and follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JaxStrong.