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Army Corps Coordinating with SFWMD to Schedule Substantial Water Releases from Lake Okeechobee After Heavy Rains Raise the Lake Level Above 16-Feet

Sunset over Lake Okeechobee from the Pahokee Marina
Sunset over Lake Okeechobee from the Pahokee Marina

South Florida - Friday February 9, 2024: The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) today announced that they are working with the South Florida Water Management District and other stakeholders to schedule substantial releases of water from Lake Okeechobee which is at 16.32 feet above sea level, as of Friday.

In a status call with the media Friday morning, USACE Major Corey Bell said, "currently Lake Okeechobee is high for this time of year so we must consider higher releases to lower water levels before the wet and hurricane seasons."

No release date has been set yet, and this proposed release is unrelated to the Corps' earlier announcement on Friday of discretionary releases from Lake Okeechobee that will begin next week in support of an ongoing sediment study.

Col. Bell explained that "EL Nino conditions have resulted in an above average rainfall this dry season" which has caused water levels on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Lake Okeechobee, and the water conservation areas, "to rise during a season" in which water levels typically recede.

Any release, said Col. Bell, would be to in three directions, to the west down the Caloosahatchee, to the east down the St. Lucie and to the south towards the Everglades.

Cool weather has reduced the algae bloom on the lake to to roughly 20 square miles, according to recent satellite photos.

Col. Bell said releasing water from the Lake now, while the weather was cool, and the bloom potential low, would reduce the threat of releasing toxic algae down the estuaries.