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Lake Okeechobee flows to resume this weekend

July 12, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

After a few days of reprieve, the nutrient-laden water in Lake Okeechobee will once again flow east and west starting Friday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the flow restoration in a press release Thursday, after it had halted the releases Monday to assess "system conditions."

The Corps keeps the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet on average. According to the release, the lake is almost at 14.5 feet. It's the third-highest record for this date in 11 years, when the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) was adopted.

For the next 14 days, the Corps will release 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Caloosahatchee River and 1,800 cfs to the St. Lucie River.

Colonel Jason Kirk, the Jacksonville District Army Corps Commander, said this is a lower rate than the LORS authorizes with the lake at almost 14.5 feet in wet season.

"Over the upcoming 14-day period, we will operate with discharges slightly lower than the limits in LORS," Kirk said in the release. "We will implement pulse releases with variable flows that simulate rainfall events in an effort to reduce some of the environmental impacts."

This time, the Corps will resume measuring the Caloosahatachee releases at the Moore Haven Lock, located near the southwest part of the lake. Several weeks ago, the Corps agreed to measure the release flow at the Franklin Locks near Olga to account for the additional watershed runoff that the river was taking in.

The reason for the resume is the threat on the 37,000 people who live around the lake, Kirk said, as well as damage to homes and businesses that could occur if the Herbert Hoover Dike is breached.

"We acknowledge the multiple challenges in this system including this summer's extensive algal blooms," he said.

The Corps and the South Florida Water Management District are taking steps to allow water to flow south, as much can safely be done.

A structure to the south of the Water Conservation Area 3A was authorized to used Friday, July 13, which will allow water to be released into the Everglades National Parl. Also, the water managers are slowing flows north into Lake Okeechobee, the release said.



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