District Actions to Reduce Harmful Discharges to Northern Estuaries
Lake Okeechobee water is being discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. SFWMD is actively working to reduce Lake Okeechobee levels and shorten the duration of these harmful discharges.
Long term, restoring the Everglades is key to preventing harmful discharges, and expediting the EAA Reservoir Project and other Everglades restoration projects remain top priorities for the South Florida Water Management District to reduce harmful discharges in the future.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) created this special webpage to share operational updates to curb the impacts of discharges. Updates to this page are made to this page as they are available.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will discharge an average of 4,000 cfs west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary from S-77 and 1,800 cfs east to the St. Lucie Estuary from S-80. These discharges are intended to slow the rate of water level rise in Lake Okeechobee.
The District reduced inflows, water going into Lake Okeechobee, by:
- Holding water in storage projects where available and
- Reducing lake Kissimmee outflows by 700 cfs.
SFWMD increased its removal of water, called outflows, from Lake Okeechobee to 2,500 cfs by:
- Increasing S-352 flows by 700 cfs,
- Increasing S-351 flows by 100 cfs, and
- Increasing S-354 flows by 200 cfs.
This combined effort with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers curtails the rate of water level rise and should result in lowering of water levels in Lake Okeechobee. With SFWMD’s effort to increase, this has the potential to significantly shorten the duration of the discharges.
Pulse Releases to the St. Lucie Estuary
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are performing what are known as “pulse releases” to the St. Lucie Estuary. Below is the Pulse Release Schedule for the S-80 structure that discharges water from the C-44 Canal into the St. Lucie Estuary. Pulse releases help reduce the harmful ecological impact to the estuary, and pulse releases are done instead of a steady daily flow.
|Weekly Average||1,800 cfs|
Preventing Water from Entering Lake Okeechobee from the North
SFWMD is reducing flows from Lake Kissimmee to the Kissimmee River. Operational changes include dynamically operating canals at higher levels, near the top of their operating ranges, to hold back water; using Brighton Valley and West Water Hole Dispersed Water Management Project in Highlands County; and encouraging drainage system operators that discharge into SFWMD’s system to hold back water. Storing and reducing the flow of water helps better manage water levels in Lake Okeechobee.
Capturing Discharges of Lake Okeechobee Water to the Northern Estuaries
We are working to capture water discharged from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries. We are maximizing all available Dispersed Water Management Projects including:
- Caulkins Dispersed Water Management in Martin County
- Nicodemus Slough Dispersed Water Management Project in Glades County
- BOMA Above Ground Impoundments in Glades County
Moving Water into the Central Everglades and Storage
SFWMD is also moving water out of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the duration of harmful estuary discharges. This includes sending water south to the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin and through STA 1-E, STA 2 and STA 3/4.
Current Lake Okeechobee Conditions
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers updates the current Lake Okeechobee water level report daily.
There are currently no reported algal blooms near the discharge structures on Lake Okeechobee. Algae is reported in the center of Lake Okeechobee. Photo taken October 11, 2020 in the center of Lake Okeechobee by SFWMD Governing Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.
Review the latest Cyanobacteria Algal Bloom from Satellite in Lake Okeechobee Map from NOAA:
Why Does Lake Okeechobee Have Discharges?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages Lake Okeechobee water levels for five purposes: flood control, water supply, navigation, recreation and the preservation of fish and wildlife resources. At times, releases of water called “discharges” from Lake Okeechobee are required to manage the lake’s water levels and balance these five purposes. The South Florida Water Management District also manages water management infrastructure like gates and locks along Lake Okeechobee that can help manage lake levels.
How is water managed in South Florida?
South Florida Water Management District works with federal, state, and local agencies to manage our region’s water resources. Everglades restoration projects coupled with smart management help protect our water resources and improve how the water flows in the southern portion of the state with benefits for people and the environment. Learn more in this video below.