Following the driest month of September since recordkeeping started in 1932, the level of Lake Okeechobee continues to drop.
On Monday, the lake level was 13.4 feet, down 0.2 feet from the previous week. The average lake level (based on historical records from 1965 to 2007) is 14.97 feet.
During the 2018-2019 dry season, the corps used the “operational flexibility” in the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS ’08) to release the equivalent of about 1 foot of water from the lake.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration satellite imagery shows algal bloom “potential” in the western portion of the lake, but no surface blooms.
Lake water released to Caloosahatchee
No water has been released to the St. Lucie Canal since March 30.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River on Saturday, Oct. 5, to help maintain healthy salinity levels in the estuaries.
“The runoff that usually feeds the estuaries has run out,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, USACOE Jacksonville District commander, during an Oct. 4 media conference call. Target releases to the Caloosahatchee estuaries, measured at the Franklin Lock, will start at an average 650 cubic feet per second on Oct. 5. That equals about 420 million gallons of water per day. One inch on Lake Okeechobee is about 12 billion gallons, so at that rate the releases would lower the lake by about one inch per month, he explained.
“Until recently, the Caloosahatchee estuary had been getting enough basin runoff to meet or exceed the 650 cfs base flow target at W.P. Franklin. Now that the basin is not providing the runoff to meet this target, the corps will release lake water to supplement flows,” said Col. Kelly.