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Army Corps to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee starting Friday

Posted at 6:18 AM, Jun 21, 2018

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday morning they will reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee starting Friday.

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Despite the reduction, an estimated 756 million gallons of water a day will still be released into the St. Lucie Estuary.  Discharges will also be reduced to Florida's west coast into the Caloosahatchee River.

Discharges from Lake Okeechobee have been occurring since June 1 after lake levels reached 14.08 feet. 

The Army Corps said the primary reason for the reduction is the current water level in the lake and decreased inflows.  

"The discharges over the past three weeks have stopped the rise in the lake," Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander said in a written statement. "Inflows have also slowed since late May. Based on current conditions, the guidance under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule calls for reduced flows."

As of Thursday, the lake level is 14.02 feet.

The Corps will release water to the St. Lucie Estuary from the lake in a what they termed a "pulse" fashion, which means flows will vary during the seven-day release period.  Additional runoff from rain in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins could also occasionally result in flows that exceed targets.  

"The pulse releases will be set up to include two consecutive days of no flow for the St. Lucie Estuary," said Kirk. "This should allow some tidal flushing which will help aquatic life in the estuary."

The Corps said they are working with state officials to determine what other actions can be taken to address water management concerns.

Since the discharges began a few weeks ago, there has been algae spotted in the St. Lucie Estuary.  This has prompted concerns of toxic algae like in 2013 and 2016.