The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will increase Lake Okeechobee releases to the West and South beginning Feb. 13 as part of planned deviation approved in September 2020 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 this week at around 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).
These releases are part of a September 2020 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,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “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.”
Today, the lake stage is at 15.39 feet. While that indicates the lake has fallen by .28 feet in the past 30 days, it is 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.
Release no. 21-011