The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not release water from Lake Okeechobee before Hurricane Idalia and will not release lake water if another storm approaches, Major Cory Bell, deputy commander of the USACE Jacksonville District explained in a Sept. 8 media briefing.
He said high water in the Caloosahatchee River was due to a storm surge from the gulf that backed up into the river. Until that storm surge went down, the Franklin Lock had to remain closed. No water was released from Lake Okeechobee. The river level rose due to local basin runoff, he explained.
“We have no plans to implement pre-storm releases from Lake Okeechobee,” explained Bell. The Herbert Hoover Dike and water control structures on Lake Okeechobee will be closed 24 hours before the anticipation of tropical storm force winds and will remain closed until after the storm passes and USACE evaluates any damages.
“If a storm causes the lake to rise quickly this year, there will be ample time for us to communicate any releases out of the lake.
“It takes some time to assess these conditions and for downstream flooding conditions to be cleared up before we implement a release,” he said.
The target flow at the Franklin Lock on the Caloosahatchee River remains at 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The Caloosahatchee estuary needs some freshwater flow to prevent the estuary from becoming too saline. If local basin runoff meets or exceeds that beneficial flow target, no lake water will be released.
No lake water will be released to the St. Lucie River.
Flow under the Tamiami Trail continues at an average of 2,500 cfs.