Water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River on October 29, 2018.

US Army Corp of Engineers to reduce Lake O releases, citing ‘a good position right now’

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District continues to monitor conditions and will reduce flows from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam to the Caloosahatchee estuary.

Starting Saturday, the Corps will reduce the pulse release to the Caloosahatchee estuary to a 7-day average rate of 450 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam.

Flows to the St. Lucie estuary remain at zero cfs as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). This schedule will remain in effect until further notice. Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could occasionally result in flows that exceed one or both targets.

“Our strategy to lower Lake Okeechobee levels this year is working,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander. “We’re in a good position right now, with additional storage capacity that reduces risk of high releases to the estuaries during the wet season. The lake continues to recede as evapotranspiration kicks up a notch, as the days get longer and warmer.”

“With the water level dropping below 11 feet and approaching the water shortage management band, the time is appropriate to reduce flows slightly without significant environmental impacts,” said Kelly.

“Scientists and other stakeholders report that submerged aquatic vegetation is regenerating nicely, which improves the health of the lake,” said Kelly. “We’ve been able to build resilience in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries by keeping salinities in the good range.”

Friday’s lake stage is 10.89 feet NGVD. During the past week, lake levels have decreased 0.25 feet, with an overall 0.32 foot decrease in the past 30 days. The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary. Any changes in flows to the estuaries will be announced to the public.