The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District intends to release more water from Lake Okeechobee starting this weekend as it continues to manage the lake level in the midst of El Nino conditions.
Starting Friday (Jan. 29), the new target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary will average 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) over seven days as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers. The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is a seven-day average of 1,170 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. However, runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets as the water passes through the spillway gates at the Franklin or St. Lucie structures.
“Although we’re announcing our decision to increase flows from the lake today, the net effect is no change due to high amounts of runoff passing through the Franklin and St. Lucie structures,” said Jim Jeffords, Operations Division Chief for the Jacksonville District. “The heavy rain this month has limited the ability to send any water south. We will look to start releasing when possible east and west in order to slow the rise and maintain storage capacity in the lake. However, we won’t be able to do that until the runoff drops below the target flows we’ve announced.”
Today, the lake stage is 15.54 and continues its upward trend, having risen three quarters of a foot over the past two weeks. It is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band (within one foot of Intermediate 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. However, flows at Franklin yesterday averaged 5,500 cfs from basin runoff while the St. Lucie saw an estimated 1,800 cfs.
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. 16-008