U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to resume Lake Okeechobee discharges Friday

Posted at 11:54 AM, Jul 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-13 05:43:30-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it plans to resume releasing water from Lake Okeechobee Friday.

It said the water level in the lake is approaching 14.5 feet, up 1.65 feet from its 2018 low in May.

"We will implement pulse releases with variable flows that simulate rainfall events in an effort to reduce some of the environmental impacts, said Jacksonville District Commander Col. Jason Kirk in a statement.

The discharges will be made to both the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the St. Lucie Estuary.

The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary is a 14-day average of 3,000 cubic feet per second, measured at Moore Haven Lock.

The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is a 14-day average of 1,800 cfs, measured at St. Lucie Lock near Stuart. 

Water releases had been temporarily halted on last Monday in order to give managers a chance to conduct a full assessment of system conditions. 

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"Our flood-risk-management decision is informed by the fact that a major breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike threatening 37,000 people around the lake could cause consequences that include damage to homes and businesses, direct damage to structures and roads, and costs to remove water from flooded areas over many months," said Kirk.  "We acknowledge the multiple challenges in this system including this summer's extensive algal blooms.  Through our federal-state dike rehabilitation and Everglades restoration efforts, along with the state and local community investments to control nutrients from the lake and adjacent waterways, we are collective on the path to remedying these multiple challenges."  

On Sunday, protesters lined up across the St. Lucie Lock armed with signs and dressed in green asking to keep Lake Okeechobee discharges from flowing into the estuaries.

Discharges from Lake Okeechobee combined with rain, pollutants, and heat have caused toxic algae blooms. Critics of the discharges say it's not only hurting the ecosystem but their economy as well.