Corps reduces water releases from Lake Okeechobee
CLEWISTON, FL. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will reduce the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, saying it's a result of falling lake levels, drier conditions and an improving precipitation forecast.
Florida Governor Rick Scott visited the South Florida region this week and had criticized the Corps of Engineers steady release of water into the Caloosahatchee River which cities on the southwest coast of Florida, including Fort Myers and Cape Coral said was causing dirty water and algae blooms, hurting tourism they say.
Some observers also wonder about the "drier conditions" they Corps mentions. There have been record rains this month in many areas of the southern and Southwestern areas of Florida with daily downpours.
The new target flow from the lake to the Caloosahatchee Estuary is 6,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock (S-77). The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is 2,800 cfs, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) near Stuart.
The new target flows will be effective at 5 p.m. today, and are a result of the lake’s drop into the Intermediate Sub-Band as defined under the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), the lake’s water control plan. The current lake level is 15.74 feet.
Additionally, should the lake fall into the Low Sub-Band as defined by LORS (15.57 feet today), the Corps will further reduce the target flows to 4,000 cfs at Moore Haven and 1,800 cfs at St. Lucie. Water managers report this could happen within the next week, depending on precipitation.
"Lake levels have responded well to a combination of decreased inflows to the Lake, increased outflows, and relatively dry conditions," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. "The same water control plan that we used to increase water releases now calls for the Corps to decrease the discharges. There are still several months left in the wet season, so we will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments as necessary."
Since May 8, the day the Corps began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee, the discharges have totaled 900,000 acre-feet, and has resulted in a lake stage nearly two feet lower than if no releases had occurred.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management page at the Jacksonville District website: