LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries beginning Friday.
The Corps announced Thursday that the new target flow for the Caloosahatchee is 4,000 cubic feet per second at Moore Haven lock and dam. The target flow rate had been sitting at 2,000 cubic feet per second for several weeks.
The new target flow for the St. Lucie is 1,800 cfs at St. Lucie Lock & Dam near Stuart. That's up from 650 cfs.
"The lake has jumped three quarters of a foot since it hit its low for the year last week," said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. "This increase in outflows, guided by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, will help slow the rise in the lake and better position us for tropical conditions which may develop in the coming days."
The lake stage is currently 14.38 feet, and in the upper half of the Corps' preferred range of elevation 12.5-15.5 feet. The lake is up 0.74 feet since hitting its 2016 low of 13.64 on May 17.
The Corps continues to work with state agencies in exchanging information about algal blooms that have developed on the lake and in nearby rivers and canals over the past two weeks.
"Our state partners continue to update Corps' staff on conditions associated with the algal blooms," said Kirk. "However, the rising water levels are taking away storage in the lake that will be needed during wet season. We have to continue aggressively managing the water level due to the limitations we have in outflow capacity."
The Corps will continue to monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary.