Water 'banking' keeps Lake O higher
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has “banked” nearly 2 feet of extra water in Lake Okeechobee in the past year.
For more than a year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been using “operational flexibility” to “bank water” in Lake Okeechobee instead of releasing it to the coastal estuaries. This has mimicked what will happen when the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) goes into effect in 2024. LOSOM will replace the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS-08) which was implemented in 2008.
According to lake ecologists, Lake Okeechobee needs seasonal low levels below 12.5 feet (above sea level) to allow the sunlight to reach the lake bottom so new submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) will germinate. The SAV is the lake’s natural filter system and provides habitat critical to the fisheries. According to Scott Martin of Anglers for Lake Okeechobee, a healthy Lake O should have 100,000 acres of SAV. After Hurricane Ian’s winds churned the Big O, less than 2,000 acres of SAV remained.
This year, the lake started the wet season around 13.7 feet and continues to rise.
On Aug. 4, Lake Okeechobee was at 15.25 feet above sea level.
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