The Everglades may soon see some relief from flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) are working on a temporary deviation to the water management schedules to keep the S-12 A and B water control structures open and allow SFWMD to open the S-343 water control structures, according to USACE Cory Bell.
Bell, the deputy commander of the USACE Jacksonville District, spoke to reporters in an Oct. 20 media conference call.
He said rather than opening and shutting water control structures based on the calendar, they are working on a decision process based on desired conditions.
The L-28 levee to the west, the L-29 levee to the south and the East Coast Protection Levee to the east cause water to back up in WCA-3.
The S-343 and S-12 water control structures allow water to flow out of Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A, through the L-28 and L-29 levees, under the Tamiami Trail to Everglades National Park. These structures are operated under a schedule which calls for the gates to be closed part of the year to protect the nesting grounds of subpopulation A of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. The S-12 A and B water control structures are usually kept closed nine months of the year, even though the most recent bird surveys found no sparrows in the subpopulation A area (according to information shared at the Oct. 12 SFWMD Governing Board meeting).
Heavy rainfall south of Lake Okeechobee has left the WCAs more than 1 foot above schedule. This has resulted in high water levels detrimental to the tree islands and hazardous to deer and other wildlife. At the Oct. 12 meeting of the SFWMD Governing Board, stakeholders called on officials to open the gates and allow the clean water in WCA-3A to flow south to Everglades National Park. According to SFWMD data, about 70% of the water in WCA-3A is from direct rainfall.
Meanwhile, Lake Okeechobee continues to rise due to flow from the north and direct rainfall into the lake. On Oct. 20, Lake Okeechobee was 16.28 feet above sea level. For the seven-day period ending Oct. 20, flow into the lake averaged 4,440 cubic feet per second (cfs) while very little water left the lake. Flow to the Caloosahatchee through the Julian Keen Lock and Dam at Moore Haven, averaged just 640 cfs. Flow through the Franklin Lock, about 43 miles from Moore Haven, averaged 2,100 cfs. There was no flow through the Port Mayaca Lock to the C-44 (St. Lucie) canal.
Water from the C-44 canal was pumped into the C-44 reservoir at an average of 656 cfs. Outflows from the C-44 reservoir to the C-44 stormwater treatment area (STA) averaged 329 cfs.
Water in the above ground reservoir is about 7 feet deep. The reservoir has been successfully tested to water levels of 10 feet. It was designed to hold water up to 15 feet.
For the seven-day period ending Oct. 20, flow under the Tamiami Trail averaged 3,300 cfs.
Since the start of the wet season, USACE has “banked” 186,000 acre feet of water in Lake Okeechobee. That’s the amount of water that could have been released east and west under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS-08), but instead was held in the lake. That banked water equals about 5 inches on Lake Okeechobee.