JACKSONVILLE -- As the dry season begins in earnest, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has no plans to change the current lake release schedule.
In a Dec. 3 media call, Col. James Booth, commander of the USACE Jacksonville District, said no water from the lake will be sent east to the St. Lucie Canal. No lake water has been released to the St. Lucie River since April.
West of the lake, the target flow at the Franklin Lock remains at 2,000 cubic feet per second. This is a combination of water released from the lake at Moore Haven and local basin runoff. “If the local basin runoff increases, we back off from the lake,” the colonel explained.
The Caloosahatchee River needs some freshwater flow in the dry season to prevent saltwater intrusion. The 2,000 cfs flow is within the beneficial range for the river.
South of the lake, flow for water supply has averaged around 350 cfs.
“We continue to see significant flows south under the Tamiami Trail,” Booth said.
He said as of Nov. 30, the corps sent 1.2 million acre feet of water under the Tamiami Trail so far this calendar year, making 2021 the third best calendar year for sending water into Everglades National Park in the past decade. And there’s still one month left in the year, he added. (One acre foot is the amount of water needed to fill an acre one foot deep.)
On Dec. 2, flow under the Tamiami trail was 2,459 cfs, with most of that flow coming from Water Conservation Area 3 (WCA-3) into the S-333 structure. Flow through the S-12 structures was 733 cfs. Booth said S-12A and S-12B were closed in October and will remain closed through the middle of July to protect the nesting area of the subpopulation A of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow.
“We’re really happy with what we’ve been able to do with rainfall we’ve gotten,” he said.
While the colonel would not put a number on the target for the June 1 lake level, he said the corps is comfortable with the current plan, and will release their plan for the dry season after the first of the year.
He said as the dry weather continues, he expects flows south to increase as more water is needed for water supply, and as capacity becomes available in the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) that feed water into the WCAs.
He said lake management is constantly changing dynamic situation.