Water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Canal resumed May 1 after a confirmed algal bloom near the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam halted flows.
The Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District announced April 30 that water releases would resume May 1, albeit at a much lower rate.
The Corps announced flows into the St. Lucie Estuary would be limited to runoff from recent rains, up to 300 cubic feet per second, through Monday, May 4. On Monday, the rate would increase to 900 cfs, with lake water making up the difference between runoff and the target flow.
The Corps has had to balance the rising lake levels with an algal bloom confirmed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection late last month.
“We have continued concerns about the lake level as the wet season draws closer,” said Jacksonville Commander Col. Alan Dodd in a press release.
Recent rains have caused the lake to rise, he said, increasing the need to increase discharges from the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
The Corps also said flowing water could help dissipate the algal bloom near the Port Mayaca Locks.
“Algal blooms need stagnant water to flourish,” said Dodd. “Holding this water in the lake may result in a larger problem later. We have consulted extensively with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District. This decision represents the collective thinking of their scientists and those from the United States Geological Survey.”
While the Corps resumed releases into the St. Lucie River to the east, it also increased flows from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River to the west. Beginning Monday, May 1, the Corps increased flows to a seven-day average of 2,000 cfs, up from 1,800 cfs.
The lake stood at 13.74 feet as of press time Wednesday, May 6.