USACE Reduces Caloosahatchee Releases from Lake Okeechobee

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
Published May 28, 2021

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will reduce Lake Okeechobee releases at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) from the current weekly average of 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1,000 cfs beginning May 29.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) remains closed and USACE continues to manage the C-44 canal levels at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam (S-308). As long as the lake remains below 14 feet, excess canal water can flow into the lake rather than through the S-80, although locally heavy rainfall may still require S-80 to open.

The lake today is at 12.91 feet, which is 0.34 feet lower than last week and 1.16 feet lower than 30 days ago. While the lake is still 1.55 feet higher than last year on this date, it is 0.23 feet lower than the period of record average lake level for this date.

“May is a transitional month that can vary from very wet to very dry as we move into the rainy season,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “After the very wet start of the dry season in October and November last year, we were fortunate that the weather in May turned out to be significantly drier than normal and allowed the lake to recede so much. This is great news for the estuaries because it reduces the risk of prolonged, high-volume releases from the lake this rainy season.”

USACE will continue to release water at beneficial levels to the Caloosahatchee in a pulse pattern after feedback from stakeholders on the West Coast reported some improvement in algae conditions along the estuary after two weeks of similar pulse releases. The use of pulse releases instead of a steady flow is intended to allow tidal flushing which into the upper estuary and help combat the formation of algae in the estuary.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) recent testing shows significant improvement in toxin concentration within the lake over the past few weeks. There are still some areas above the Environmental Protection Agency’s 8 parts per billion level recommendation for recreation, but none of the very high level sample results from several weeks ago.

USACE will continue to post warning signs at its structures and facilities as directed by county health departments and will continue to closely coordinate with our partners at FDEP as they monitor algal blooms in Florida waters.

Jim Yocum

Release no. 21-039