The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will reduce releases from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River Estuaries beginning Saturday, April 15.
The releases to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary will target a pulse release at a 7-day average of 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79), utilizing the lake make-up releases banked following the storms last year when actual releases were less than the LORS 2008 maximum releases allowed. This is a reduction from the 2,000 cfs targeted pulse release that has been in effect since January 20. Since this target is measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79), it includes local basin runoff. Local basin runoff may require flows at S-79 to temporarily go above the target release to maintain flood control along the C-43 canal.
Lake releases from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) will be reduced to zero cubic feet per second. Local basin runoff may still require operation of S-80 to maintain flood control along the C-44 Canal.
“With help from mother nature, we have been able to bring the lake down almost a foot in the past 30 days,” said Col. James Booth, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District Commander. “Our partners at the South Florida Water Management District have recommended an 1,800 CFS flow rate to the Caloosahatchee and zero releases to the St. Lucie, and we are in agreement with their recommendation. This reduced flow target will continue to bring the lake down in advance of the wet season, provide beneficial flows to the Caloosahatchee, keep the lake in the ecological envelope, and maintain good conditions for fish and oyster spawning, which recently started in the estuaries.”
“We continually re-evaluate the conditions throughout the system and our release schedules. We will continue to send as much water south as possible, while trying to lower lake levels before the onset of the wet season by making beneficial releases out of Lake Okeechobee,” said Booth. “The wet season usually starts between May 15 and June 15, but the exact timing is yet to be determined.”
“Once the wet season begins, and we know what point we are starting from, we will develop a strategy for how we will operate,” Booth said. “It will likely be very similar to how we have operated during the wet season the last several years, but the timing, location, and intensity of rainfall over the system will dictate the need to release out of the lake.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.22 feet. The lake is approximately 10 inches lower than it was 30 days ago, and 10 inches higher than it was one year ago.
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.
The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District on the district’s website at www.saj.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict, Twitter at www.twitter.com/JaxStrong, and Instagram at www.instagram.com/jacksonvilledistrict.