USACE begins increased Lake Okeechobee releases to St. Lucie Estuary
Due to the continued high water level in Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will begin to increase releases from the lake.
We [USACE] will sustain our releases from Lake Okeechobee at a seven-day average pulse release of 2,000 cubic feet per second to the Caloosahatchee Estuary from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) and add a seven-day average steady release of 500 cubic feet per second to the St. Lucie Estuary at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80). We also will send a seven-day steady release of 100 cubic feet per second to the Lake Worth Lagoon from Lake Okeechobee. Releases south from the lake into the EAA have increased because of drier conditions and will continue to be maximized as capacity allows.
This adjustment is necessary due to several factors, principally the lack of lake recession. Reducing lake levels will improve ecological conditions on the lake and reduce the risk of high-volume releases in the wet season when we know the risk of algal blooms will be high. Additionally, there has been a change to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast for this dry season from a La Niña to a neutral condition. The time window to lower the lake level in preparation for the next wet season is shortening.
These flow targets are still in the REstoration COordination & VERification (RECOVER) optimal flow envelope for the Caloosahatchee and for the St. Lucie Estuary and are consistent with the position statement from the South Florida Water Management District for this week.