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Lake Okeechobee discharges to slow

July 26, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Beginning Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries.

"The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary will be reduced to a seven-day average of 1,170 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart," a release from the Corps states. "The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary will remain at 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), but will be measured at W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam (S-79) located near Fort Myers. This change in measuring location has the effect of reducing flows because basin runoff in the Caloosahatchee will now be incorporated in the discharge calculation."

"The water level in the lake has dropped slightly over the past two weeks," said Maj. Joseph Sahl, Jacksonville District deputy commander in the release. "The guidance under LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule) calls for reduced flows under current conditions."

"The releases we've conducted have produced close to a foot in storage in Lake Okeechobee that wouldn't have existed without the discharges," said Sahl in the release. "This additional storage could prove vital in the coming months should tropical weather influence the area."

The Corps will continue to release water into the St. Lucie Estuary from the lake in varying degrees over the seven-day release period in "pulse" like fashions. The decision will take effect Friday and remain in effect until further notice according to the Corps.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has announced a series of public meetings to discuss the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.

Lee County will host one of these meetings on Tuesday, July 31, from 6-8 p.m. at the Lee County Mosquito and Hyacinth Control Districts in Lehigh Acres.

According to a press release, the Corps is proposing an above-ground wetland attenuation feature and several aquifer storage and recovery wells in an area north of the lake. The plan also describes the restoration of 5,300 acres of wetlands in the area.

"This plan provides additional flexibility for managing water north of the lake in a manner consistent with Everglades' restoration goals," said Lisa Aley, Planning Technical Lead for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project in a written statement. "We hope that people join us for the public meetings, and look forward to hearing from people living and working in the area on this proposed plan."

Spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, John Campbell, said this plan can provide and alternative when it rains north of Lake Okeechobee.

It will be able to store water north to hold when the levels rise in high water events.

"The intent (of the meeting) is to provide another forum, or channel, for the public to learn and ask questions about the project," Campbell said.

"Water releases are important to Lee County. This is one of many longer term solutions proposed," he continued.

Cape Coral, Fort Myers and the surrounding communities in our county are on the receiving end of the Lake O discharges.

The Army Corps of Engineers will take all public comment on the project into consideration when reviewing their project report.

Comments can be made at the meeting, via email or U.S. mail.

There will be an "open house" portion prior to the presentation where folks can ask questions. Following the meeting will be the public comment platform.

"It's important to hear the public's perspective, a non government perspective, on environmental impacts," Campbell said.

"The public has a huge role to play in identifying environmental impacts," he added.

The Lehigh Acres venue was chosen in part because it came at no cost to the Army Corps of Engineers, their familiarity will holding prior events there and so that it may be close enough for Cape Coral and Fort Myers residents to attend, as well as servicing those in west Hendry county so they may attend as well.

The two other public meeting locations will be in Stuart and Okeechobee.

The Lee County Mosquito and Hyacinth Control Districts is at 15191 Homestead Road in Lehigh Acres.

For more information on the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project and to email your comments to the Corps, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOWRP/.

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 

 

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