As water levels in Lake Okeechobee rise, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District plans to increase flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries beginning Friday.
The new target flow for the Caloosahatchee is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock & Dam (S-77) located on the southwest side of the lake. The new target flow for the St. Lucie is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the St. Lucie basin could occasionally result in flows that exceed the target.
“The lake has jumped three quarters of a foot since it hit its low for the year last week,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “This increase in outflows, guided by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, will help slow the rise in the lake and better position us for tropical conditions which may develop in the coming days.”
Today, the lake stage is 14.38 feet, and in the upper half of the Corps’ preferred range of elevation 12.5-15.5 feet. The lake is up 0.74 feet since hitting its 2016 low of 13.64 on May 17.
“While we always consider estuarine health in our analysis, the start of hurricane season next week has our team particularly focused on maintaining the safe holding capacity of Lake Okeechobee,” said Kirk. “The increased flows will assist in meeting that critical objective.”
The Corps continues to work with state agencies in exchanging information about algal blooms that have developed on the lake and in nearby rivers and canals over the past two weeks.
“Our state partners continue to update Corps’ staff on conditions associated with the algal blooms,” said Kirk. “However, the rising water levels are taking away storage in the lake that will be needed during wet season. We have to continue aggressively managing the water level due to the limitations we have in outflow capacity.”
The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary.