The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will slightly decrease Lake Okeechobee releases to the Caloosahatchee beginning Saturday, April 2 to support the ecology of the estuary.
The adjusted releases to the Caloosahatchee Estuary will target a pulse release at a 7-day average of 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79). This represents a slight reduction from the level of 2,000 cfs that has continued since November of 2021.
Water from Lake Okeechobee enters the river at the Julian Keen Jr. Lock at Moore Haven (S-77), which is more than 40 miles from the Franklin Lock. The flow at the Franklin Lock is a mixture of lake water and basin runoff. If there is sufficient basin runoff to meet the target flow at the Franklin Lock, no water from the lake is released.
“Our west coast scientists and stakeholders report that the conditions in the Caloosahatchee Estuary have been really favorable and within the RECOVER optimal flow regime for 125 days, which is good news,” said Lieutenant Colonel. Todd Polk, Deputy Commander for South Florida. “In addition, they expect fish spawn to be happening soon, followed by oysters in the next month or two, and a reduction in flows soon may help to optimize conditions for those events.”
“East coast scientists also report favorable conditions in the St. Lucie Estuary, including seeing new seagrass beds in areas where they had not previously been found,” said Polk. “Lake Okeechobee is also in a great spot within the ecological envelope this year, and we are seeing an abundance of wading birds.”
In addition, the Jacksonville District plans to help facilitate sediment sampling at the Julian Keen, Jr. Lock and Dam (S-77) on April 5 and 6. as part of an ongoing study by our partners at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The initial releases are expected to range from 1,000 cfs to 2,500 cfs for short durations of time during operating hours, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The releases are not expected to impact the targeted releases at W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79).
On April 1, the lake stage was at 13.78 feet. The lake has receded 0.74 feet in the past 30 days, is 0.66 feet lower than it was last year and 1.9 feet higher than two years ago.
For the seven-day period ending April 1, total inflows into the lake were 853 cfs. Total outflows averaged 4,464 cfs, with most of that water going south. For the entire wet season, no water from Lake O has been released to the St. Lucie River and the flow to the Caloosahatchee has been limited to the beneficial freshwater flow the river needs.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.