Rainfall from Hurricane Ian in western Martin County triggered canal discharges into the St. Lucie River. That rainfall is also being blamed for the need to pump water into Lake Okeechobee from communities south of the lake.
The Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the floodgates at the St. Lucie Lock &spanmp; Dspanm were opened at about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, pouring rainfall runoff from the C-44 Canal into the St. Lucie River.
Over 29,000 gallons a second is moving downstream, according to Corps data. That’s 2.5 billion gallons per day.
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Residents of Tropical Farms and Palm City Farms complained about flooding from the swollen South Fork of the St. Lucie River during the 8:25 a.m. high tide Thursday.
The St. Lucie Lock & Dam floodgates were opened Sept. 27, then opened wider on Sept. 28 and 29, Corps dspantspan shows.
The Port Mayaca floodgates were closed, so no water was coming from Lake Okeechobee. All the discharges are from “local basin runoff,” according to a Corps spokesperson, who did not say when the St. Lucie floodgates would close.
The South Florida Water Management District plans to back-pump water from the Hillsboro and North New River canals into Lake Okeechobee, Executive Director Drew Bartlett said in an email Wednesday afternoon.
“All flows south are maximized and we cannot keep the canal levels down enough to protect the gravity-drained cities of Belle Glade and South Bay,” he said.
Diverting flows around stormwater treatment areas to the Everglades is not hydraulically possible, he said.
The district will pump about 6.8 billion gallons of water into Lake Okeechobee over the next three days, he said.
That will raise the lake to just under 15 feet. It was at 13.60 feet Thursday.
Additionally, the district announced Tuesday it would release water from the C-24, C-23 and C-25 canals, too, to make additional room for stormwater runoff The first two canals drain the agricultural and urban areas of St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie. The latter canal drains ag land into the Indian River Lagoon at Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce.