The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will maintain its current “pulse-release” pattern from Lake Okeechobee, while recognizing that an uncertain weather forecast may necessitate changes over the next week.
The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary remains at a seven-day average of 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam (S-79) located near Fort Myers. The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary remains at a seven-day average of 650 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets. The Corps will continue releasing water from the lake in a “pulse” fashion which means flows will vary during the seven-day release period. Many have credited this practice with reducing environmental impacts from the discharges in recent weeks.
“The lake has started falling again over the past few days,” said Candida Bronson, Acting Operations Division Chief for the Jacksonville District. “However, tropical activity in the Caribbean could lead to heavy rain in south Florida over the coming days. With that in mind, we will continue releases at current rates with the understanding we may need to adjust flows depending on what happens with the weather over the next few days.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.67 feet, down 0.08 feet over the past week. Drier conditions and a change toward normal precipitation in the long-term multi-seasonal outlook has caused a shift in guidance under the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (2008 LORS), which now calls for lower releases from the lake. With the current forecast and high probability of heavy rain, the Corps will use additional operational flexibility contained in LORS to continue the release of water at current rates.
“LORS contains additional operational flexibility for this situation,” said Bronson. “The guidance doesn’t address this set of circumstances. Given the risk of a tropical system dropping a lot of rain in south Florida, we need to get additional water out of the lake. Additional operational flexibility gives us a tool to do minimize the risk associated with this system.”
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. 16-069