JACKSONVILLE — The Port Mayaca Lock on Lake Okeechobee is closed for more than one reason.
On Thursday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to close the lock to stop the backflow of water from the C-44 Canal (also known as the St. Lucie Canal) in to the lake, to slow the rise of Lake Okeechobee.
When the Port Mayaca Lock is closed, the corps uses the Caulkins Water Farm to reduce the flow of freshwater through the St. Lucie Lock. The 3,200-acre site is adjacent to the C-44 Canal just east of Indiantown. Water from the canal is pumped into bermed reservoirs on the property, where it stays until it evaporates or percolates through the earth into the aquifer. As the water level on the water farm drops naturally, more water can be pumped onto the property.
The corps tries to keep the canal level between 14 feet and 14.5 feet (above sea level) to accommodate boat traffic in the Lake Okeechobee Waterway and also provide flood control for the C-44 basin area of Martin County. When Lake Okeechobee is below 14 feet, if the Port Mayaca gates are open, water from the C-44 backflows into the lake. The connection from the lake to the St. Lucie River is manmade. Before canals were dug for flood control, no water from the lake flowed east to the St. Lucie and no water from that basin drained into the lake.
When the lock is closed to prevent flow from the C-44 Canal into the lake, boats can still lock through into the lake.
On Friday, the corps issued a notice of an emergency closure of the Port Mayaca Lock. Lightning struck the facility Thursday evening, damaging a transformer and other electrical components. Maintenance crews were at the site Friday morning to assess damage and perform repairs. Currently there is no estimated time of completion.
For updates on the Port Mayaca Lock & Dam operations, call 561-924-2858 or 863-662-9424.