LEE COUNTY, Fla. – This weekend, the water releases from Lake Okeechobee will continue to be reduced.
Starting Saturday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to start reducing the pulse releases of water it's releasing from the lake into the Caloosahatchee River down to an average of 800 cubic feet per second, measured at Franklin Lock and Dam.
Flows to the St. Lucie estuary remain at zero cfs as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam.
Back in February, the Corps began preemptively dumping water from the lake at a rate of 1,800 cfs towards the Caloosahatchee, in an effort to reduce the need to dump water during the rainy season. The flow rates have been decreased incrementally since then.
In the past, those water releases have led to blue-green algae covering our waters and exacerbated the red tide algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our efforts to build resilience in the coastal estuaries, improve the health of Lake Okeechobee, and bring the lake down lower this year have started to achieve the results we've been looking for. Submerged aquatic vegetation such as eel grass has started to regenerate, which improves water quality and habitat in the lake, and salinities in the estuaries are in a good range for oyster spawning. We are better positioned this year, with more capacity to deal with storms and reduce the chances of high releases during the hot summer months when algae is most likely to bloom," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Deputy Commander for south Florida. "We continue to work closely with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District as we approach the low end of the schedule. We recognize the importance of water supply, and we remain committed to balancing all the project purposes."
Wednesday's lake stage was 11.56 feet. That’s an overall 0.62 foot reduction in the past 30 days.