USACE Begins Increased Lake Okeechobee Releases
Jacksonville, Fla. —Due to the continued high water level in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will begin to increase releases from the lake.
We will sustain our releases from Lake Okeechobee at a seven-day average pulse release of 2,000 cubic feet per second to the Caloosahatchee Estuary from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) and add a seven-day average steady release of 500 cubic feet per second to the St. Lucie Estuary at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). We also will send a seven-day steady release of 100 cubic feet per second to the Lake Worth Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. Releases south from the lake into the EAA have increased because of drier conditions and will continue to be maximized as capacity allows.
This adjustment is necessary due to several factors, principally the lack of lake recession. Reducing lake levels will improve ecological conditions on the lake and reduce the risk of high-volume releases in the wet season when we know the risk of algal blooms will be high. Additionally, there has been a change to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast for this dry season from a La Niña to a neutral condition. The time window to lower the lake level in preparation for the next wet season is shortening.
These flow targets are still in the REstoration COordination & VERification (RECOVER) optimal flow envelope for the Caloosahatchee and for the St. Lucie Estuary and are consistent with the position statement from the South Florida Water Management District for this week.
“Lake Okeechobee has not receded as much as much as we would like since November,” said Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District commander. “We must prepare for the next wet season, and the latest forecasts indicate we may not have as much help from mother nature as originally thought. Our partners and stakeholders have expressed that if releasing water is required, now is better than later for a variety of reasons.”
We will continue to use make-up releases as a water management tool within the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008 (LORS08) to bank releases not made in order to release them later when the schedule calls for lower releases. LORS08 Part D guidance currently recommends up to 4,000 cfs at S-77 and up to 1,800 cfs at S-80. The volumetric difference between actual releases and the guidance will be put into a water bank. As we move further into the dry season, we will continue releases using the available volume of banked water at beneficial levels. We are committed to transparency throughout the implementation of make-up releases.
With the lake level still more than 16 feet, USACE continues to inspect the south side of the lake from Moore Haven to Belle Glade every two weeks. Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) was inspected thoroughly before and after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, and no problems were identified.
Lake Okeechobee is 16.10 feet today. That is 0.75 feet lower than last week, 0.35 feet lower than 30 days ago, and 0.98 feet higher than it was on this day last year.