More Than $1 Million Committed to Restoration Project for Lake Okeechobee

Sept. 25, 2014

~ DEP and Spring Lake Improvement District continue efforts to improve water quality with stormwater project ~

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, together with the Spring Lake Improvement District (SLID), have committed more than $1 million to a stormwater system improvement project that will help reduce pollution reaching Lake Okeechobee. The department’s contribution to the project is $624,000. The project includes the construction of a 70-acre stormwater treatment area including a treatment pond and wetland marsh.

“I would like to thank the Spring Lake Improvement District for their environmental leadership,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “This project is evidence that dedicated communities of any size can leverage their resources to make great strides for Florida’s waters.”

Water that flows off the land and into creeks, streams or rivers after a rain is referred to as stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff typically contains fertilizers, pesticides, oils, grease and other pollutants. Without treatment, stormwater carries these pollutants directly into Florida’s waterbodies. Capturing and retaining runoff from storm events allows for control over the quality and quantity of the stormwater reaching nearby waterbodies. Natural physical, biological and chemical processes work over time to remove pollutants.

“Our very small district has spent close to $4 million over the last seven years on our updated water control plan, and FDEP is the first state or federal agency to actually provide financial assistance,” said Joe DeCerbo, district manager of the Spring Lake Improvement District. “Once they viewed our program they became active participants, and we sincerely appreciate their involvement.”

Currrently, runoff from the residential areas surrounding Arbuckle Creek, including State Route 98 and the Sebring Airport, receives treatment through a system of cascading lakes, ponds and canals. After project construction, stormwater runoff will continue to travel through the lakes before undergoing additional treatment through the marsh and then discharged into Arbuckle Creek through a pumping station. The proposed project should reduce the pollutant load in Arbuckle Creek and consequently positively impact the Kissimmee River, Lake Istokpoga, and ultimately, Lake Okeechobee. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is planned for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.

Florida has historically been at the forefront of the nation in addressing stormwater management, as one of the first states to implement a statewide stormwater program. Florida was also one of the first states to address agricultural and urban stormwater management through its water-quality restoration program.

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