CLEWISTON, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2017) – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District commander, Col. Jason Kirk welcomed Florida Governor Rick Scott to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee today for an update on current water levels and to see the project at the dike.
At a brief press conference, Scott interacted with local and state officials, groups of middle and high school students, local residents and received the latest updates from Corps project managers and team members.
During a walking tour below the dike, Jacksonville District Dam Safety Program Manager, Almur Whiting explained the inspection routine to the governor and what Corps’ personnel look for as they conduct inspections of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
Whiting told the governor that ideally the lake needs to be between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet but because of rain, runoff and lack of discharges, the current lake level is 17.16 feet.
“I explained and showed him our inspection routine on the land side, in the southern reaches and the primary areas of concern,” Whiting said.
Kirk said the lake is high, but the Corps found no issues with the dike's integrity after completing inspections over the weekend..
“I have teams that are doing daily inspections on the southern end of the dike and they’re also inspecting the lesser risk northern end of the dike," said Kirk. “We do not assess that through the next couple of weeks with the rain fall that we currently predict, that we will see any major signs of distress.”
Kirk said heavy rains have caused water levels in the conservation areas to hit their highest stages on record for this time of year and reassured stakeholders the Corps is working closely with our federal, state, and tribal interests to maximize our operational flexibility.
The lake is the highest the lake has been in 13 years, since multiple hurricanes struck Florida in 2004.
The Corps discontinued discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary because of rising tides last week, but has since resumed releases to the east..
Scott said he is relying on funding from the President and is proud of the great working relationship he has with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps has dispensed more than $870 million into the dike repair project so far, about half of what it will cost to fix. The total price tag is approximately $1.7 billion.
Scott said he convinced the state legislature to contribute $50 million to the project from this year's budget.
“We are in constant contact with our friends at the Corps,” said Scott. If the corps finds a problem, then we’ll make a decision at that point."
After the press conference, Kirk took Scott to the ongoing C-2 construction site, where Hebert Hoover Dike Resident Engineer Saxby Anderson and Construction Representative Mike McHugh explained status of work and answered questions.
“The water management challenges in south Florida are important to all of us,” said Kirk. “Our team of USACE professionals fully understand the importance of moving forward with these projects and we will continue to work with stakeholders to find solutions that balance competing water management interests and provide long-term solutions to getting the water right in south Florida.”
For more news and information visit the district’s website at www.saj.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JaxStrong.)