Lake Okeechobee rising as storm water drains south
Lake Okeechobee is rapidly rising as runoff from Hurricane Ian flows south from Orlando/Kissimmee. The rapid flow of water south is also impacting the dissolved oxygen levels in the Kissimmee River.
The Oct. 5 Environmental Conditions report by the South Florida Water Management District stated: “Hurricane Ian passed over the Kissimmee Basin on Sept. 28-29, 2022, bringing considerable rainfall that raised water levels in East Lake Toho (S-59), Lake Toho (S-61) and KCH (S-65) further above their respective regulation schedules; discharge at their outlet structures is being adjusted to bring stage in each lake back to its respective regulation schedule. S-65A discharge was increased to 10,000 cfs to control a rainfall driven stage rise in Pool A. With S-65A discharge continuing to rise above bankfull, water depth on the Kissimmee River floodplain rose to a mean depth of 4.11 feet on Oct. 2, 2022. The average concentration of dissolved oxygen in the Kissimmee River declined from 3.0 mg/L to 2.5 mg/L as Hurricane Ian passed over the basin and then decreased to 0.7 mg/L, well below the potentially lethal level for largemouth bass of 1.0 mg/L.”
“We’ve had a historic rainfall in the upper Kissimmee Basin,” Lt. Col. Todd Polk, deputy commander of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, explained in an Oct. 7 media briefing.
He said district-wide, rainfall from the hurricane averaged about 13.5 inches, with heavier rainfall in the Kissimmee/Orlando area and lighter rainfall closer to Lake Okeechobee.
“There is a lot of water in the system, particularly in the chain of lakes,” he explained.
Water managers have installed pumps to speed water through the canals that connect the chain of lakes and send water south into the Kissimmee River.