Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Franklin Locks

Harmful Discharges

Lake Okeechobee is often referred to as the “liquid heart” of Florida. Unfortunately, over the years, the Lake has become heavily polluted by run-off from agriculture and development in Central & South Florida.

As it was designed in 1947 to avoid flooding south of the lake, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are the two “safety valves” of the system during high water events. Water from Lake Okeechobee is now routinely discharged to these rivers and sent to tide in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. This practice is also starving Florida Bay of the freshwater it naturally received through the historic Everglades.

In the wet season, massive amounts of nutrient polluted water is now being sent to the Caloosahatchee River. This nutrient rich water is exacerbating harmful algal blooms of increasing scope and frequency.

The federal Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the Lake’s operation. The Corps’ operational manuals consider public safety and many other objectives set forth by the state’s South Florida Water Management District.

Minimum Flows & Levels

To complicate matters for the Caloosahatchee, our brackish water estuary thrives with a certain amount of freshwater sustaining Vallisneria tape grass near Fort Myers. When dry season rainfall is not enough to suppress salinity levels, tape grass die-offs occur.

As a result of these two seasonal swings, and water mismanagement by government agencies, the Caloosahatchee often suffers from too much freshwater in the wet season, and not enough freshwater in the dry season.

Franklin Lock spillway

Take Action

Stop a Last-Minute Bait and Switch with Lake Okeechobee Management

After three long years, thousands of modeling runs and countless public input meetings, the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) is nearing completion. And just as we thought the Army Corps was reaching a more equitable plan for most (not all) stakeholder interests, a new twist has been introduced in the eleventh hour.

At a recent Project Delivery Team (PDT) meeting, it was announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would defer to state water managers and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) when Lake Okeechobee levels are within 1.5 feet above the Water Shortage Management Line.

This raised many questions:

  • Won’t this make all the modeling moot?
  • Why is it just being added now?
  • Who is really behind this request?

Leaders from Calusa Waterkeeper, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Oceanographic Society, and Conservancy of Southwest Florida met to discuss this new development and send our concerns and comments to the Army Corps and Water Management District leadership.

Please consider supporting our joint ACTION ALERT: Ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject this call for more state control and higher, damaging lake levels. Please use the button below provided by our collaborative partners to send a letter to Corps officials asking them to stop the LOSOM bait and switch!

Ask the ACOE to Stop the Bait and Switch

Related News Stories

Lake Okeechobee

Critics ‘Not Totally Sold’ on Army Corps’ New Plan for Lake Okeechobee Releases

Dozens of scientists, environmental groups, elected officials and agency heads met to talk about recent changes to a still-controversial plan to govern Lake Okeechobee releases. Paul Gray, Audubon Florida’s director of science, offered a cautionary tale about becoming strictly wedded to policies that don’t necessarily make ecological sense.

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Priority Issues

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Harmful Algal Blooms

Cyanobacteria & Red Tide

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Karenia brevis (red tide) have been making major impacts on Southwest Florida.


Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Revise System Operating Manual

The Caloosahatchee River often suffers from too much freshwater in the wet season, and not enough freshwater in the dry season.

Chiquita Lock

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