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Lake Okeechobee on rise after tropical rains

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jun 15, 2024

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — After record setting rains this past week, the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers provided an update on Friday about where the Lake Okeechobee is and how the federal system handled the rainfall.

The rain caused the lake to rise from a season low on June 9 of 12.63 feet to 13.2 feet. That's about half foot in a five-day span. And the lake is expected to continue to rise with water coming down the Kissimmee Chain and additional rainfall through the wet season. Jacksonville District Commander Col. James Booth also say not to expect any releases out of the lake in the near future, due to the large amount of water already flowing down the Caloosahatchee from last week's rain and runoffs related to that rainfall.

“Massive amounts of flow coming out of the S-79 (W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam), at basically our lowest structure down on the Caloosahatchee somewhere around 13 or 14,000 cubic feet per second. And that’s all due to local runoff coming into the system and basically flowing out towards the Caloosahatchee estuary. And we acknowledge that is not an insignificant amount of water and we will continue to watch it, but there are no contributions from Lake Okeechobee, and it be the same until those flows come down significantly.”

To paint a picture for you, 13,000 cubic feet of second flows the Colonel described is nearly 6 million gallons per minute. These high flows down the river can lead to stress to our sea grasses and oysters all while sending nutrients into in the Gulf of Mexico that can feed harmful algae blooms.

The U.S. Army Corps routinely targets 2,000 cubic feet of second on Calooshatchee during the wet season, and will only release water into the river if the needs of the system require it, mainly for salinity purposes.