JACKSONVILLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District announced today (Dec. 11) the continuation of gradual reductions of Lake Okeechobee releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after beginning the transition to dry season operations Dec. 5.
The following is the release transition plan for the Caloosahatchee River Estuary:
• Dec. 12-18: 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) measured at Moore Haven Lock and Dam (S-77);
• Dec. 19-25: 2,500 cfs measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79);
• Dec. 26 – Jan 1: 1,500 cfs measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79);
• Jan 2-8: 1,000 cfs measured at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79).
Water from the lake enters the Caloosahatchee River at Moore Haven. The Franklin lock is 43.4 miles from Moore Haven. The first week target measured at Moore Haven will be in addition to any local basin runoff. The following weeks flow will be measured at the S-79 and the targets will include Lake Okeechobee and local basin runoff.
The Caloosahatchee River requires a minimum beneficial flow at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) of 650 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the South Florida Water Management District, to prevent salt water intrusion. Flow of 1,000 cfs is considered optimal. Flows above 2.600 cfs are considered harmful to the estuary’s ecology.
The following is the release plan for the St. Lucie River Estuary:
• Pulse 1 No Lake Okeechobee water releases between Dec. 5-9; 1,500 cfs releases from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) between Dec. 10-16.
•Pulse 2: No Lake releases between Dec. 17-21; 1,500 cfs from S-80 between Dec 22-28
• Pulse 3: No lake releases between Dec. 29 – Jan. 2; 1,000 cfs from S-80 between Jan. 3-9
While no lake water is released during the pauses for each pulse, local basin runoff may require flows through St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) for flood control. Release targets for each pulse will include local basin runoff.
Heavy rains could result in flows exceeding targets in both estuaries as USACE lock operators make real-time adjustments to spillways to maintain canal levels.
The southern portion of the system remains saturated from major rain events in October and November.
“We continue to focus on recovery from a very wet rainy season, with the lake higher for this time of year than it has been since the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule went into effect in 2008,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, commander of the Jacksonville District. “We will work with our federal, state, tribal, and local partners to find the right path forward for the dry season to set us up well for next year.”