Water managers move more water south

WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) deactivated its Emergency Operations Center and returned to “seasonal readiness” at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The district received an average of about 1 inch of rainfall throughout Hurricane Dorian. District staff are working to return the regional flood control system to normal operations.

The district is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in an effort to avoid harmful freshwater discharges to the estuary by moving approximately 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water south from Lake Okeechobee. SFWMD is also managing water in Lake Kissimmee and Lake Istokpoga to reduce flows into Lake Okeechobee.

“The regional flood protection system was ready by the time Hurricane Dorian’s impacts reached our area,” said Executive Director Drew Bartlett. “Our flood protection system responded well, and I’m grateful for all of the hard-working staff who helped us prepare for Hurricane Dorian. Now we are working to reduce the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee, send water south out of Lake Okeechobee as quickly as possible, and resume normal operations while protecting our residents and the environment.”

SFWMD-managed navigation locks re-opened at 9 a.m. on Sept. 4.

SFWMD-managed lands are now open for public access.

Many of the district’s 2,000 miles of canals have been lowered over the past week to allow capacity to receive excess water from communities via the local drainage districts. All lakes in the Upper Kissimmee basin are at or slightly below their regulation schedule.

The Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) south of the lake are above their regulation schedules. SFWMD has been working with the USACE to move water out of the conservation areas as quickly as possible.

With the passing of the storm, water managers have increased the flow of water from WCA 3A south into Everglades National Park. This allows more water to flow south under the newly constructed bridges along Tamiami Trail.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
The map above shows the three-day rainfall estimates from Hurricane Dorian.

Lake Okeechobee was at 13.97 feet as of Sept. 5.

Water from Lake Okeechobee is being moved to the A-1 and L-8 Flow Equalization Basins (FEBs). Then water from the FEBs will flow through STA-1E, STA-1W, STA-2 or STA-3/4 and move to the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs).

The L-29 Canal is receiving 1,600 cfs of water and was raised to 8.5 feet to take advantage of the Tamiami Trail bridges. Water flowing under the bridges will go into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, where it is needed. All of the S-12 structures (that allow flow under the trail) are open.

The USACE is making local basin discharges at the S-79 structure on the Caloosahatchee River and S-80 structure to the St. Lucie River. This is local basin runoff from rainfall and is not from Lake Okeechobee.

With no additional significant rainfall, the USACE reports the lake may rise 1 foot by late September.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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