As Hurricane Ian makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, is preparing to respond as needed and providing information to boaters and campers on operational adjustments that will take place at navigation locks and recreation facilities.
The Jacksonville District Emergency Operations Center is active, allowing the district to devote added attention to the response actions that might be necessary as Hurricane Ian impacts Florida.
“Our staff is coordinating with state and local officials,” said Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District Commander. “We are adjusting our operations to ensure the safety of those who use our facilities and our staff in Florida.”
Jacksonville District is issuing the following guidance on its operations in south Florida:
- For boaters, the Corps has extended operating hours for its navigation locks on the Okeechobee Waterway; they will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the locks on the Okeechobee Waterway and 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Canaveral Lock as long as it is safe to do so. To ensure safety of lock operators, the Corps will suspend operations when lightning is in the area, or when winds exceed 35 mph.
- Jacksonville District is closing the W.P. Franklin North Campground and South Day Use Areas, and Ortona South Campground and North Day Use Areas as of today through Saturday, October 1. Currently, the St. Lucie Campground and Day Use Areas remain open. For campers and visitors to recreation sites, Jacksonville District park rangers will monitor conditions at Corps’ campgrounds and recreation areas. Rangers will notify guests of the evacuation and advise on shelter locations. Visitors should move all campers, motor homes, tents, vessels, and trailers from facilities under evacuation orders. Campers will receive refunds for any cancelled camping reservations through the reservation system contractor. For more information on refunds, please go to www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.
- Jacksonville District field staff are conducting a pre-storm evaluation of the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The lake level today is 13.11 feet. Due to a very dry start to the rainy season, Lake Okeechobee is more than two feet below where it was the past two years. This provides us with more capacity than normal for this time of year. While there are no absolutes, it appears favorable that the lake can take in the water from this storm without having to make large-volume releases.
- With the Herbert Hoover Dike under a tropical storm warning, all USACE structures are being closed and will remain closed until the storm has passed. HHD is safer today than it has ever been going into a storm. Construction on the dike is 97 percent complete - all the culvert replacements and removals are done, and the cutoff wall construction is 99 percent complete. As the lake level rises, the Jacksonville District has a system in place to increase the frequency of inspections on the dike to detect any potential issues quickly. With the current lake level and the track of the storm, the Jacksonville District is confident that the HHD will perform its purpose of safeguarding the lives and property of those living and working around the lake.
- Once the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam (S-308) closes as part of these operations, lock operators will only be able to maintain the C-44 canal levels through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). It is likely local basin runoff will be released through the S-80, but those releases will not include any water from Lake Okeechobee, as S-308 will be closed. The decision to release water from the S-80 is made by the lock operators on the ground in real time to respond to changing conditions.
Release no. 22-049