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Minimal Lake O Releases Starting This Weekend

April 5, 2024
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Aerial above Sanibel from April 1, 2024. View more aerial images >>

Lake Okeechobee flows to the Caloosahatchee will begin tomorrow, April 6, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today. A change to the originally announced two-week pause that was to last through April 12, the new flow schedule includes an average of 650 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the Franklin Lock & Dam over the next week. 

graph of Lake Okeechobee pulse schedule to S-79 and S-80 from April 6-12, 2024

These minimal flows are to prevent further growth of blue-green algae that has been forming in stagnant water along the Caloosahatchee River, the Army Corps said in an email. 

“When we made the decision to pause large releases to allow the downstream ecosystems to recover, we were still seeing an abundance of basin runoff along the Caloosahatchee.  Since then, conditions have gotten very dry, very quickly and the canal is almost entirely stagnant,” the Corps said. “Zero flows out of the W.P. Franklin and Ortona Lock and Dam are not beneficial to the downstream estuary. Stagnant canals can also be more conducive for algal blooms in the river.” 

Cyanobacteria was detected in moderate abundance at multiple points along the Caloosahatchee this week, including at Davis Boat Ramp, North Shore Park, and Midpoint Bridge Park. 

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“The Army Corps is starting these flows to attempt to protect the Caloosahatchee from harmful algal blooms,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis. “The small flows proposed should move water through the river without causing an impact on the oyster spawn that is currently beginning.”

Starting April 13, Lake Okeechobee flows to the Caloosahatchee will increase to an average of 2,000 cfs “through the dry season barring any significant changes in conditions,” the Corps said. 

Zero lake releases will be sent to the east at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam. 

Stay informed by subscribing to SCCF’s Weekly Water Conditions Tracker and Caloosahatchee Conditions Reports.

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