USACE Reduces Flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee to Zero as Lake Levels Fall
South Florida - Monday September 12, 2022: South Florida is facing moderate drought conditions during what's supposed to be the rainy season, as a result the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday reduced target flows down to zero from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee.
Col. James Booth said that the USACE changed "the target release plan west of the lake to a seven-day average of zero cubic feet per second (cfs) at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79),” based on the South Florida Water Management District's position statement. The seven-day average target to the East at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) remains at 0 cfs.
At this point in the schedule, the Jacksonville District does not need to make any releases in support of the federal project purposes. Flows from W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) will be from local runoff. USACE will continue to operate the system for navigation and maintain canal levels for navigation operations so some releases may be seen to support those operations.
As of last Friday the lake level was at 12.52 feet, three inches lower than it was 30 days ago, and about two feet, two inches lower than it was one year ago. As a result of the lake of rain during this rainy season, lake levels have dipped into the Water Shortage Management Band. That’s when water managers shift to a more cautious water management plan to ensure enough fresh water for farmers, utilities, estuaries and marshes.
In the Water Shortage Management Band, water in Lake Okeechobee will be managed in accordance with the Water Shortage Plan established by our partners at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The goal of this band is to manage existing water supplies contained within Lake Okeechobee in accordance with SFWMD rules and guidance.
"We continue to be completely in step with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District, and we will continue to work with them to manage the lake in the best way possible to navigate this extremely unusual wet season," said Col. Booth who added that its also important to remember "that we are just now entering the peak of hurricane season. One major rain event can completely change the conversation.”
“As we received recommendations during the spring recession, we concurred with the South Florida Water Management District’s recommendations and were able to keep Lake Okeechobee within the ecological envelope, which was good for the ecology of both Lake Okeechobee and the estuary,” Booth emphasized. “We stand behind the release decisions made this year, based on the strategy we devised for the lake at the start of the rainy season.”
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.