The level of Lake Okeechobee stayed around 16.4 feet above sea level last week, with rainfall and flow into the lake about the same as the combination of lake releases and evapotranspiration out of the lake.
According to the Dec. 21 Lake Okeechobee Environmental Conditions Report from the South Florida Water Management District, the lake was at 16.41 feet NGVD on Dec. 18. NGVD stands for National Geodetic Vertical Datum, the national standard reference for elevations.
According to Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) 0.71 inches of rain fell directly on the Lake last week.
The SFWMD report notes this is the third year in a row lake stages have exceeded 16 feet NGVD at the beginning of the dry season and is the highest lake stage at this time of year for more than two decades.
Average daily inflows (excluding rainfall) decreased from the previous week, going from 2,395 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 2,307 cfs.
Average daily outflows (excluding evapotranspiration) also decreased from the previous week going from 1,955 cfs to 1,686 cfs.
The most recent satellite image (Dec. 19, 2022) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring System showed very patchy low to moderate bloom potential along most of the nearshore areas and very patchy low potential scattered throughout most of the pelagic region of the Lake. (The pelagic region is the open lake water, away from the shoreline.)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has set the target flow at the Franklin Lock at 2,000 cfs. However, this flow includes local basin runoff into the Caloosahatchee River as well as lake releases. If there is local basin runoff along the more than 40 miles of river between the lake and the Franklin Lock, less water is released from Lake Okeechobee.
According to USACE, for the seven day period ending Dec. 21, flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River through the Julian Keen Jr. Lock at Moore Haven averaged 1,275 cfs.
No water has been released from Lake O to the St. Lucie River since April 2021. USACE currently has no plans to release lake water east, although the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule calls for releases up to 1,800 cfs under current conditions.
Some lake water continues to flow south for water supply for agricultural and urban uses. Lake Okeechobee supplies about half of the dry season water supply for West Palm Beach.
Water Conservation Area (WCA)-1 and WCA-2A are above schedule. WCA-3A is slightly below schedule, which will allows some water to flow from WCA-2A into WCA-3A.
Flow under the Tamiami Trail to Everglades National Park continues at about 1,500 cfs.