Following direction from Gov. Rick Scott and an emergency order issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) on June 21 began implementing an array of new actions, in addition to current efforts already underway, to lower levels in Lake Okeechobee and move water into the Everglades Water Conservation Areas. These measures, which would have been slowed by typical agency approval processes, will move forward on an expedited basis to help reduce the severity of and need for regulatory releases that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is making from the lake to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
South Florida's annual wet season got off to an intense start with 300 percent of normal rainfall across the region in May 2018, a record for the month. Locally, Martin and St. Lucie counties alone received 450 percent of the historical average for the month, with more than 16 inches of rain. This rainfall inundated the Water Conservation Areas and caused Lake Okeechobee to rise more than a foot. As a result, the USACE began making releases from the lake to the northern estuaries on June 1 for public safety.
New measures enabled by the emergency order include:
1) Moving water out of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area in Palm Beach County into the C-18 Canal to create additional capacity to move water south.
2) Installing temporary pumps near the S-39 Structure to move additional water out of Water Conservation Area 2 to the Hillsboro Canal on the Palm Beach-Broward county line, creating capacity in the conservation area.
3) Installing temporary pumps at the S-151 Structure to move an additional 200 cfs of water out of Water Conservation Area 3A in Miami-Dade County.
4) Operating the S-152 Structure to move 400 cfs out of Water Conservation Area 3A.
5) Installing temporary pumps at several locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that will move water from the conservation areas into the L-29, L-28 and C-4 canals.
All of these emergency measures, coupled with actions SFWMD already had underway, help create capacity in the Water Conser- vation Areas to take water south from Lake Okeechobee. These ongoing actions include:
1) Using the S-5A Pump Station in Palm Beach County to move 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) out of the L-8 Canal to prevent water from gravity flowing back into Lake Okeechobee.
2) Moving water to tide through every available structure, including the Hillsboro, North New River and Miami canals.
3) Using the S-34 Structure to move 200 cfs out of Water Conservation Area 2A into the North New River in Broward County.
4) Fully utilizing the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin and L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, both components of Gov. Scott's Restoration Strategies Plan, to store water.
5) Storing water on public lands through the Dispersed Water Management program.
6) Working with private landowners to store water on their properties.
Restoration Projects to Benefit the Northern Estuaries.
Over the long term, the District is working with its federal partners at the Corps to make steady progress on several ecosystem restoration projects throughout the agency's 16-county region. Now under construction or being planned, these projects will collectively reduce harmful lake releases to the northern estuaries and capture local stormwater runoff – both of which are responsible for excess freshwater flows to the estuaries.
Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir
Indian River Lagoon - South: C‑44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area
Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project
Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
Central Everglades Planning Project
Kissimmee River Restoration
Lake Hicpochee Hydrologic Improvements
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