DEP Commits $300,000 to Protect Lake Okeechobee

Oct. 21, 2014

~Stormwater-improvement project reduces pollutants reaching Lake Okeechobee~

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has committed $300,000 to the city of Moore Haven for stormwater-system improvements to reduce pollutants reaching Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River Basin. The project involves the construction of stormwater conveyance structures, such as catch basins and swales, to remove pollutants and reduce flooding in the area. It also involves driveway and roadway restoration.

“The water quality in Lake Okeechobee suffers from excess nutrient content from a variety of sources,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We are seeking to diminish or eliminate as many pollutant sources as possible, which we can frequently accomplish through the type of targeted and efficient stormwater management this project is designed to achieve.”

Stormwater runoff is water that flows into creeks, streams or rivers after rain. Stormwater runoff usually contains a number of pollutants including fertilizers, pesticides, oil and grease. Once this runoff reaches a body of water, the pollutants can cause rapid algal growth, algal blooms and other complications. Treating stormwater runoff through catch basins and swales will improve water quality.

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 multipurpose 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 to pollution from surrounding land uses and 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.

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