Dec. 16, 2014
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has formally adopted an aggressive 10-year restoration plan, known as a basin management action plan or BMAP, covering Lake Okeechobee. The long-term restoration plan was carefully developed through a series of public meetings that included environmental groups, agricultural interests, local governments as well as the public. The plan identifies a set of strategies and projects to reduce nutrient pollution to the lake that represents more than a $750 million investment and nearly 33-percent reduction in total phosphorous entering Lake Okeechobee over the next 10 years.
Governor Rick Scott said, “I am proud DEP continues to collaboratively work with all stakeholders to protect the quality of Florida’s water. The creation of this restoration plan builds on the success of our $880 million plan to protect the quality of water flowing into the Everglades. Restoring the waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades is a key step in preserving the greater Everglades Ecosystem for generations to come.”
“Achieving the reductions required to restore Lake Okeechobee is a monumental task; and this restoration plan represents a significant first step toward achieving that goal,” said DEP Interim Secretary Cliff Wilson. “We applaud the investments and commitment of all of the stakeholders in the basin and we are committed to continuing to work together to further refine the restoration plan until we achieve our goal.”
Over the last two years, with the support of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, DEP has conducted more than 10 public meetings to develop the final restoration plan. The BMAP identifies a variety of project types to relieve the lake of large influxes of nutrient-rich water, including dispersed water storage, nutrient reduction practices for urban and agricultural areas, and a number of cost-share projects using state financial assistance to accelerate restoration.
“DEP’s BMAP effort delivers an important tool for the long-term restoration of Lake Okeechobee,” said SFWMD Assistant Executive Director Lennart Lindahl. “Based on sound science and extensive public input, this important BMAP will help protect South Florida’s largest inland water body.”
The first five years of the plan cover a range of projects including the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, hybrid wetland treatment areas, dispersed water storage and stormwater treatment areas (STAs). The BMAP also identifies timeframes for the continued planning and development of longer-term projects over the next 10 years.
“Audubon Florida worked closely with DEP on the Lake Okeechobee water quality plan and considers the plan an important step toward meeting state water quality standards,” said Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper. “The plan includes projects that significantly reduce harmful phosphorous entering the lake and requires verification of the effectiveness of pollution control practices. In future iterations Audubon will continue to recommend additional measures to control and treat pollution.”
“We thank the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for its work and leadership on the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for Lake Okeechobee. Cleaning up the lake is a huge undertaking, and the BMAP is a good first step in that effort,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
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 waterbody that provides drinking water for urban areas, irrigation water for agricultural lands, recharge for aquifers and freshwater for the Everglades. With a contributing watershed of approximately 1,800 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island, it is vulnerable both to pollution from surrounding land uses and flooding.