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Army Corps increases water releases from Lake Okeechobee

Target release is 7-day average of 2,000 cubic feet per second from W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam
Lake Okeechobee discharges suspension extended
Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-11 13:11:20-04

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary, beginning Saturday.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the releases to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary will target a pulse release at a seven-day average of 2,000 cubic feet per second from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam.

This is a slight increase from the 1,800 cfs in effect since April 15.

Because this target is measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam, or S-79, it includes local basin runoff and may require flows at S-79 to temporarily go above the target release to maintain flood control along the C-43 Canal, the Army Corps said in a news release.

“We have shifted from the dry season to a wet season weather pattern," Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District commander, said. "Lake Okeechobee water levels have been increasing over the last couple weeks and are currently hovering around 14 feet. Since June 1, the flows coming through the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam have mostly been basin runoff, which exceeded the 1,800 cubic feet per second target. We have not needed to supplement those flows with lake water to meet our target.”

The target release from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, or S-80, will remain at zero cubic feet per second. Local basin runoff may still require operation of S-80 to maintain flood control along the C-44 Canal, especially during locally heavy rain events, the Army Corps said.

“I’ve made the decision to increase our flow targets so that if conditions are right to release additional water, we will be able to lower lake levels a little more to try to get the lake back into the ecological envelope, while we provide beneficial flows to the Caloosahatchee and maintain good conditions for fish and oyster spawning as long as possible,” Booth said. “We evaluate conditions throughout the system on a daily basis, including the algal blooms, which have increased as expected, as summer temperatures rise.”

The lake stage now is 14.01 feet, approximately 1.5 inches higher one week ago, about 1 inch lower than 30 days ago and about 15 inches higher than it was one year ago.

“Our wet season strategy is very similar to how we operated during the wet season last year, but the timing, location, and intensity of rainfall over the system will dictate the need to release out of the lake,” Booth said. “We will continue to send as much water south as possible, in coordination with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District.”

For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website.