The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will increase releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary beginning Saturday, June 10.
The releases to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary will target a pulse release at a 7-day average of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). This is a slight increase from the 1,800 cfs targeted pulse release that has been in effect since April 15. Since this target is measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79), it includes local basin runoff and may require flows at S-79 to temporarily go above the target release to maintain flood control along the C-43 Canal.
“We have shifted from the dry season to a wet season weather pattern. Lake Okeechobee water levels have been increasing over the last couple weeks and are currently hovering around 14 feet,” said Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District Commander. “Since June 1, the flows coming through the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam have mostly been basin runoff, which exceeded the 1,800 cubic feet per second target. We have not needed to supplement those flows with lake water to meet our target.”
The target release from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) will remain at zero cubic feet per second (cfs). Local basin runoff may still require operation of S-80 to maintain flood control along the C-44 Canal, especially during locally heavy rain events.
“I’ve made the decision to increase our flow targets so that if conditions are right to release additional water, we will be able to lower lake levels a little more to try to get the lake back into the ecological envelope, while we provide beneficial flows to the Caloosahatchee and maintain good conditions for fish and oyster spawning as long as possible,” Booth said. “We evaluate conditions throughout the system on a daily basis, including the algal blooms, which have increased as expected, as summer temperatures rise.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.01 feet. The lake is approximately 1.5 inches higher than it was one week ago, about 1 inch lower than it was 30 days ago, and about 15 inches higher than it was one year ago.
“Our wet season strategy is very similar to how we operated during the wet season last year, but the timing, location, and intensity of rainfall over the system will dictate the need to release out of the lake,” Booth said. “We will continue to send as much water south as possible, in coordination with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District.”
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.