Earlier Wednesday elected officials, business owners, and North Florida college students originally from the Glades communities gathered in Waller Park at the Florida Capitol to voice their support for state funding to expedite plans north of Lake Okeechobee to “slow the flow” of untreated water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and impacting coastal estuaries.
“Slowing the flow north of Lake Okeechobee will help alleviate the discharges to the east and the west when combined with other planned projects by up to 80 percent. It is the key to fixing the big problem in the State of Florida with water. We have to fix Lake Okeechobee and treat Lake Okeechobee as the filter it was intended to be, not a reservoir to hold muddy water.” said noted professional bass angler Scott Martin. “I want to thank the Senate for funding it for $50 million, and I want to encourage the House to get fully behind this project and fund it even more.”
Clewiston Mayor Mali Gardner said, “It is important to us that this funding be appropriated to make this investment for the very future of not only the Lake communities and the town I love, but also for our coastal neighbors. It is the right project, it is the right time, and I ask everyone who is involved in making this decision to please stand up for Lake Okeechobee. It is the heartbeat of our community, it is the heartbeat of the Everglades, and it is truly one of the best natural resources the State of Florida has.”
“I saw this Lake 40 years ago, and it was a sight to behold.” said Marina owner Mary Ann Martin. “We need to slow the flow, we need to have storage north of Lake Okeechobee, we need to clean that water before it comes into our Lake. We have a job to do, and we depend on the Legislature here in Tallahassee to help us promote the mighty momentum to make Lake Okeechobee great again.”
Marina operator Ramon Iglesias said, “The Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project is a crucial step forward for everyone who calls Lake Okeechobee and the lands around it home. Increasing storage capacity, restoring wetlands, controlling the damaging discharges ... the pursuit of these goals is something anyone who knows anything about the ecosystem should support. Lake Okeechobee is invaluable to every Floridian, and projects like these are exactly what's needed to help our children and grandchildren thrive along its shores.”
The Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project, which is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is a large-scale planning effort being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District to identify opportunities to improve the flows into the Lake. The project’s main objectives include these:
Increasing watershed water storage capacity, thereby improving Lake Okeechobee’s water levels;
Improving both the quantity and timing of discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries;
Restoring wetlands; and
Improving current and future water supplies
According to the South Florida Water Management District, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project combined with other planned storage and treatment projects will help achieve CERP’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in coastal discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The group organizing the rally, Anglers for Lake Okeechobee, is a community fishing group dedicated to protecting Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of Florida. AFLO is committed to focusing on science and a long-term effort in the halls of Tallahassee and Washington to ensure that protection becomes a priority.