The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will increase discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary and resume releases to the St. Lucie Estuary as part of its effort to manage water levels.
Releases to the Caloosahatchee Estuary will increase starting tomorrow (May 1). The new target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary will be a seven-day average of 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam (S-79) near Fort Myers.
Flows for the St. Lucie Estuary will be limited to runoff from recent precipitation that has drained into the St. Lucie Canal. The Corps plans to limit those flows to 300 cfs through Monday (May 4) as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart. On Monday, the target flow will be increased to 900 cfs as measured at the St. Lucie Lock, with lake water making up the difference between runoff and the target flow.
Should heavy rain produce runoff that exceeds the target at either location, releases will be adjusted as needed until flows fall to a level below the target.
“We have continued concerns about the lake level as the wet season draws closer,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District Commander. “Recent rain has caused the lake to rise. Increasing discharges will help us to manage water levels in the lake.”
The Corps also desires to break up an algal bloom that has developed in the past few days at the Port Mayaca Lock & Dam (S-308). Algal blooms can form in freshwater containing nutrients commonly found in stormwater runoff. Warmer conditions and direct sunlight can cause blooms to flourish. Flowing water and saltwater inhibit blooms. Moving water from the lake toward a saltwater source can cause the bloom to dissipate.
“Algal blooms need stagnant water to flourish,” said Dodd. “Holding this water in the lake may result in a larger problem later. We have consulted extensively with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District. This decision represents the collective thinking of their scientists and those from the United States Geological Survey.”
Today, the lake stage is 13.85 feet. It is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS). Under current conditions, LORS authorizes the Corps to discharge up to 3,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee and up to 1,170 cfs to the St. Lucie.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.
Release no. 15-051