JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District is coordinating closely with state and federal partners to prepare for a potential tropical storm in South Florida that could arrive as early as tonight.
USACE will not make any pre-storm releases from Lake Okeechobee or any of the canals it operates, but it will begin closing all structures on the Herbert Hoover Dike later today and suspend all scheduled releases from the lake until the storm has passed.
“We are encouraged because the lake is in a very good place right now at 12.59 feet,” said Lt. Col. Todd Polk, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. “We also have a Herbert Hoover Dike that is better prepared than it’s ever been before, with more than 94% of the total cutoff wall complete and 100% of the 28 culverts constructed. We are also fortunate that the Kissimmee River chain of lakes are at or below their schedules, leaving some capacity north of that lake that will hopefully help reduce any major inflows into the lake.”
When a tropical storm warning is issued over the lake, USACE secures the HHD by closing all of it structures to keep any storm surge inside the dike and prevent water from surging into surrounding canals and communities. After the storm passes, USACE will assess conditions before re-opening any structures.
This means that Port Mayaca Lock and Dam (S-308) and Julian Keen Lock and Dam (S-77) will be closed during the event and all local basin runoff will be passed through downstream structures to tide. On the C-44 canal, it is likely that the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) will open today or tomorrow to provide necessary flood risk management to the C-44 basin. On the C-43 side, the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) will continue to release water from local basin runoff.
With all HHD structures closed, none of the water being released to tide will be coming from Lake Okeechobee.
USACE will suspend the current weekly release target of 1,000 cubic feet per second at S-79 to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary. USACE has not scheduled regular lake releases through the S-80 since Spring of 2021.
Any release decisions made after the storm will be communicated prior to execution.