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fishing in Saint Lucie EstuaryThe St. Lucie River and Estuary is an ecological jewel on Florida's Treasure Coast that is integral to the environmental and economic well-being of Martin and St. Lucie counties. The St. Lucie is part of the larger Indian River Lagoon system, the most diverse estuarine environment in North America with more than 4,000 plant and animal species, including manatees, oysters, dolphins, sea turtles and seahorses.

Extensive historical modifications to the St. Lucie River and its watershed have altered the hydrology of the region. As a result, heavy rainfall can bring large influxes of fresh water into the St. Lucie Estuary from stormwater runoff within the basin, Lake Okeechobee releases or both. The increased freshwater flows affect salinity levels and water quality in the estuary, potentially causing environmental harm.

To address these issues, the South Florida Water Management District is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal, state and local partners on a variety of strategies to improve the health of the St. Lucie Estuary.

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Follow construction progress on the C-44 Reservoir and STA project with the daily webcam photos.
Where is the Latest Data for the St. Lucie?

Using SFWMD's monitoring network and technical information, a wealth of data is available on this website for the District's 16-county region, including the St. Lucie River and Estuary:

  • Operational Planning – Find weekly operational reports and other information on the current state of the system and water control operations, including water quality and environmental conditions such as salinity levels, Lake Okeechobee water control structure operations recommendations, rainfall outlook models and more.
  • Live Data – Check real-time water levels in lakes, canals and waterways or see whether coastal gates and other water control structures are open or closed.
  • Rainfall Maps – See maps with historical rainfall totals, current radar-based rainfall estimates and more.
  • DBHYDRO – Search this extensive environmental database for historical or up-to-date surface or groundwater information, as well as meteorological, hydrogeological and water quality data.

Data and Reports from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

St. Lucie Estuary Inflows September 1, 2016 - Oct. 18, 2016 - View Larger


Interactive Map, Moving Water South of Lake Okeechobee - View Larger


Background / Local Watershed
Map of the St. Lucie Estuary Watershed - View Larger

Historically, the St. Lucie was a freshwater river with no permanent connection to either the Atlantic Ocean or Lake Okeechobee. Beginning in the late 19th century, the river and its watershed underwent a series of modifications for navigation, flood control and water supply purposes.

As a result of these changes, the St. Lucie River is today part of the Central & Southern Florida Project, one of the world's largest interconnected public works systems. The C-44 Canal now connects Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the river. In addition, the C-23 and C-24 canals move stormwater runoff directly into the North Fork of the river instead of allowing the natural system to gradually absorb the water.


Lake Okeechobee Stages - View Larger

Managing Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages Lake Okeechobee water levels with the goal of balancing flood control, public safety, navigation, water supply and ecological health. The Corps bases operational decisions – whether to retain or release water in the massive lake – on its regulation schedule and the best available science and data provided by its staff and a variety of partners, including the South Florida Water Management District.

In a fixed regional water management system with limited storage, the Corps must sometimes release water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers to protect public safety when lake levels get too high. Under its revised 2008 regulation schedule, the Corps strives to maintain Lake Okeechobee's water level between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet NGVD, in part to protect the integrity of the aging Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds the lake. The lake's water level can rise up to six times faster than water can be discharged.


Constraints in Operating the Systemthumbnail from constraints presentation

Historically, Lake Okeechobee overflowed its natural banks and sent a sheet flow of water south through the expansive Everglades all the way to Florida Bay. In today's managed system, a number of constraints limit how much water can be sent through canals and structures from the lake to the remnant Everglades. more »


Strategies for Improving the St. Lucie River and Estuary

The ecological health of the St. Lucie River and Estuary is essential to sustaining the overall way of life and economy of local communities. The District and its partners are developing short- and long-term solutions that are designed to improve water quality and better manage flows into the estuary by increasing water storage in the regional water management system and moving more clean water south to the Everglades.

St. Lucie River Watershed Protection Plan

CERP: Indian River Lagoon - South (includes the C-44 Reservoir)

CERP: Lake Okeechobee Watershed

Central Everglades Planning Project

Water Storage Strategies

Basin Management Action Plan

Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation

Kissimmee River Restoration and Kissimmee Basin Modeling and Operations Study

Restoration Progress – Key Projects [Map]

St. Lucie River Issues Team »


Frequently Asked Questions – Lake Okeechobee Releases
Who is responsible for water releases from Lake Okeechobee? »

Why is water sometimes discharged from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee waterways into the estuaries? »

What is the SFWMD's role in water releases from Lake Okeechobee? »

Can more water from Lake Okeechobee be sent south to the Everglades? »

Can Lake Okeechobee releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries be stopped? »

Can a flow-way be constructed south of Lake Okeechobee? »

Why does environmental restoration take so long? »



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Related Contacts
  • Kathy LaMartina – Regional Representative
    (Martin & St. Lucie Counties)
    (561) 682-6594

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