With Lake Okeechobee’s level at 14.78 feet NGVD today — almost a foot higher than this time last year — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been increasing releases from the lake to both estuaries.
This week, SFWMD engineers activated all three pumps at the District’s Caloosahatchee Water Quality Treatment and Testing Project site in Glades (property formerly owned by BOMA Corp.), strategically located in the Caloosahatchee watershed. The site has approximately 1,500 acre-feet, or about 489 million gallons, of water storage capacity, with pumps pulling water directly from the Caloosahatchee River before it reaches the estuary.
While the site will one day become a nitrogen removal project to improve water quality, District engineers determined water could be stored there on an interim basis. The site was also used in 2014 for emergency storage.
Pumping into the Mirror Lakes property in Lehigh Acres began last week. The project was built to rehydrate Mirror Lakes Preserve with 1,000 acre-feet, or about 326 million gallons, of water storage. The project will also restore flow south of State Road 82 with 500 acre-feet, or about 163 million gallons, of water storage and move water to the Estero watershed with 2,000 acre-feet, or about 653 million gallons, of water storage.
The SFWMD helped fund Phase 1 of the effort, and engineers determined there is capacity now to pump water into the site. The District is working with its local partners in the project to begin pulling water onto the site from the surrounding watershed. This water would have otherwise flowed to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
In January, the District began full-capacity pumping into the new Nicodemus Slough water storage area in Glades County. To send water onto the 16,000-acre project area, four pumps are each moving approximately 30,000 gallons of water per minute.
Through early February, about 6,700 acre-feet, or 2.2 billion gallons, of water has been pumped onto the site, which has a full pumping capacity of 120,000 gallons per minute.