FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 19, 2014
DEP HOSTS LAKE
OKEECHOBEE RESTORATION PLAN DEVELOPMENT MEETING
~DEP staff and stakeholders continue evaluation of technical
restoration issues and options~
OKEECHOBEE– Today, the Florida Department
of Environmental Protection convened local stakeholders — government
representatives, scientists, environmentalists, agricultural operators and
others — to continue development of the Lake Okeechobee restoration plan. This
meeting was another in a series of monthly gatherings to establish the specific
pollutant load reductions and action strategies essential to improving lake
The March meeting focused
on the watershed model being used to identify total nitrogen loads reaching
Lake Okeechobee, along with presentations on estimated nitrogen load reductions
from existing and proposed projects. Following up from last month’s meeting, projected
phosphorus reductions from proposed projects were refined and the
stakeholders continue to work on coordinating water quality monitoring efforts.
“The Lake Okeechobee
restoration plan is one of the most complicated we have undertaken,” said Tom
Frick, Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration.
“It is imperative we bring stakeholders together regularly to learn about the
issues, develop restoration project options, and link this effort with other
ongoing Lake Okeechobee protection programs.”
At 730 square miles, Lake
Okeechobee is the largest lake in the southeastern United States and drains
more than 3.5 million acres (5,500 square miles) spanning 10 Florida counties.
It is in the heart of the greater Everglades ecosystem that stretches from the
Kissimmee River to Florida Bay. With an average depth of only 9 feet, it is
vulnerable both to pollution from surrounding land uses and flooding.
Lake Okeechobee is itself a
remarkable resource, but it is also a source of water for the Caloosahatchee
and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. Water releases from the lake to control
flooding can deliver too much fresh water and pollutants downstream. Therefore,
completion and implementation of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed BMAP will also
help restore the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds, where restoration
programs -- adopted by the Department in November 2012 and June 2013,
respectively -- are already underway.
Collectively, the actions of
the Department, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the hundreds of
stakeholders invested in these watersheds will fulfill the objectives of the
Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program set by the Florida
Legislature in 2007.
For more about Lake Okeechobee,