JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announced on Friday that will be resuming Lake Okeechobee releases into the Caloosahatchee River from the W.P. Franklin Lock starting on Saturday.
Lake releases were paused on Nov 7th before Hurricane Nicole impacted the state of Florida. Since Hurricane Nicole, the Army Corps has seen Lake Okeechobee continue to rise with most of the water coming from the Kissimmee River Basin and is currently over 16.3 feet. The Army Corps says when the lake reaches that depth it threatens the lake’s ecology and increases pressure on dams and levees. Dropping into lake levels also prepare Lake Okeechobee for next year's wet season.
Col. James Booth, the commander of the Jacksonville District, says he is aware of the red tide going off the coast of Lee County and visited Sanibel on Tuesday to see for himself.
“I visited on the ground with Mayor Smith and a staff member from Sanibel, to see the conditions on their beaches for myself,” said Col. James Booth We have been working with our stakeholders and state partners to understand the conditions and outlooks for this bloom. The short-term forecast does indicate that the bloom could get worse before it gets better. And we are very sensitive to the fact, that these red tide events impact our Caloosahatchee River stakeholders significantly.”
Col. Booth said seeing the red tide was factored into the decision to release water. The Army Corps says the current release plan is to have a 14-day average of 1,200 cfs at W.P. Franklin Lock. Today’s flow at the lock was 1,100 cfs from local runoff. The Army Corps says they will only add water to match the average in a pulsed release. For example, if the flow at the lock is 600 cfs, then the Army Corps will release water at 600 cfs from Lake Okeechobee to get the average flow to 1,200 cfs. They add that the Caloosahatchee Basin needs to keep an optimal flow of 650 to 2,100 cfs to keep the correct salinity in the basin.