DEP Hosts Lake Okeechobee Restoration Plan Development Meeting

Sept. 16, 2014

~DEP staff and stakeholders continue evaluation of restoration goals and projects~

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection invites local stakeholders — government representatives, scientists, environmentalists, agricultural operators and others — to attend a meeting to discuss development of the Lake Okeechobee restoration plan. This is part of a series of meetings meant to develop and identify specific pollutant reductions necessary and strategies to improve the lake’s water quality.

WHAT:       Meeting to Discuss Restoration Plan for Lake Okeechobee

WHEN:       Wednesday, Sept. 17

                  10:00 a.m. – noon

WHERE:    Williamson Conference and Education Center

                  2229 Northwest 9th Avenue

                  Okeechobee, Florida 34972

“The restoration of Lake Okeechobee is at the heart of improving water quality for all of South Florida,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The actions identified in this plan are a significant step toward that goal.”

The restoration plan, known as a basin management action plan or BMAP, is a plan with specific pollutant reduction projects and milestones. The Lake Okeechobee BMAP development process has been a collaborative effort between DEP, the South Florida Water Management District, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other stakeholders. The BMAP includes a monitoring plan to keep track of progress and water quality, project reporting and periodic follow-up meetings to discuss ongoing and future projects. At this meeting, DEP representatives will discuss the draft BMAP language and solicit stakeholder input before the BMAP is ultimately adopted by Secretarial Order.

Located in the heart of the greater Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem, Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the second largest freshwater lake within the contiguous United States. It is a valuable, multi-purpose lake that provides drinking water for urban areas, irrigation water for agricultural lands, recharge for aquifers and freshwater for the Everglades. With an average depth of only nine feet, it is vulnerable both to pollution from surrounding land uses and to flooding.

Lake Okeechobee is a source of water for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. Water releases from the lake, intended to control flooding, can deliver too much fresh water and pollutants downstream. Therefore, continued restoration projects for Lake Okeechobee also positively impact the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds where additional restoration programs 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 in this basin have 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 the Lake Okeechobee restoration plan, visit here. Additional information on Lake Okeechobee can be found here.

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