Army Corps of Engineers announces Lake Okeechobee Releases

Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Oct. 14, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will start releasing water from Lake Okeechobee beginning today after heavy inflows from the north and rains across the region caused the lake to reach 16.21 feet, a 1.33 foot rise in the past 30 days with six weeks left in hurricane season.

The target flow for releases to the west is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock and Dam (S-77) located in the southwest part of the lake. This planned lake water release will add to local basin runoff already flowing through the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) into the Caloosahatchee Estuary. 

The target flow for releases to the east is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. The target at S-80 will include basin runoff, meaning the amount of lake water released will be adjusted if there is heavy runoff in the basin already. If basin flows exceed the 1,800 target, no lake water will be released. Coastal flooding and high water caused by King Tides will be considered in real time as these releases are implemented at S-80.

This release schedule will be evaluated weekly and adjusted as conditions evolve.

“We haven’t made large volume releases from Lake Okeechobee since March 2019, but the rapid rise in the lake level combined with an already active hurricane season that lasts until Nov. 30 has left us with no options in ensuring the safety of those living and working around the Herbert Hoover Dike,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District commander. “We will keep working with our partners at the South Florida Water Management District to make releases south of the lake whenever practical.”

Inspections of the Herbert Hoover Dike began when the lake reached 15.5 feet and will increase in frequency if the lake continues to rise.  A single tropical storm can quickly increase lake elevation, threatening those who live and work around the lake.

NOAA and NASA satellite imagery indicates increased potential on Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries, but not near the Corps structures where water will be released. Sampling done by the state at S-77 and S-308 on the 6th and 7th of October resulted in no visible blooms and no detected toxins. The Corps continues to work with our partners at FDEP to monitor algae conditions on the lake and near our structures.

Jim Yocum
(904) 232-3914

Release no. 20-082