JACKSONVILLE – The wet season has started, and Lake Okeechobee is high. What does that mean for the summer? Mother Nature is in charge. “She always is,” Col. James Booth, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District, said in a June 9 media call.
During the past week, heavy rainfall into the lake combined with flow from the north pushed the lake level over 14 feet above sea level. No lake water was released east, west or south. The USACE schedule calls for releases of 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Caloosahatchee and releases as high as possible to the south. The Caloosahatchee River flow is measured at the Franklin Lock – more than 40 miles from Lake O. When local basin rainfall exceeds the target, no water is released from the lake. For the seven-day period ending June 9, flow at the Franklin Lock averaged 3,643 cfs, all from local basin runoff. Likewise, when heavy rainfall south of the lake soaks the farms and fills the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) and water conservation areas (WCAs) there is no capacity to send additional lake water south.
“It’s clear the lake is higher than we would like at this time of year,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Drew Bartlett.
“While I can’t promise there won’t be high releases later this year, we will avoid them as much as possible,” he said.
Bartlett said the SFWMD response team is treating algal blooms to minimize risks to public health.
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