JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2012) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District has announced it will extend water releases from Lake Okeechobee for at least another week in an effort to offset rising saltwater levels in the Caloosahatchee River.
The releases that began Jan. 27 are now extended through Feb. 9. The Corps is making the releases in a pulse-like manner to mimic small rainfall events, similar to releases that began Dec. 16. The target flow to the Caloosahatchee Estuary for this release is an average of 450 cubic feet per second (cfs) over a 14-day period, as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) east of Fort Myers.
Minimum freshwater releases to the Caloosahatchee River are critical in maintaining health in the estuary. The low volume releases are expected to help push back saltwater intrusion, reducing impacts and degradation of the freshwater tapegrass and other submerged aquatic vegetation.
“While the initial response of the estuary to the alternative day releases is promising, we need to extend this release for another four days to evaluate the outcome,” said John Kilpatrick, chief of Jacksonville District’s Multi-Projects Branch, which has oversight of water management at the lake. “If this new approach fails to reduce the salinity, experimental flows to test the response of the estuary to flows larger than 450 cfs may be undertaken.”
Today, the lake stage is 13.24 feet. The lake is currently within the Operational Band of the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (2008 LORS). At current levels, the Corps may make releases up to 450 cfs to the Caloosahatchee Estuary and 200 cfs to the St Lucie.
The Corps and partner agencies will continue to closely monitor and assess system conditions, and may decrease releases if local basin runoff contributes to flows.
Release no. 12-010