Florida Announces Okeechobee Cleanup Plan
LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. A $200 million plan to restore the Southeast's largest freshwater lake includes expanded reservoirs, new marshes and permanently lower lake levels, Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday.
Lake Okeechobee, covering 730 square miles north of the Everglades, has long suffered from phosphorus-laden runoff from nearby farms and towns that promotes harmful plant growth. It's similar to the problem in the Everglades, which is the subject of a federal-state restoration.
The state plan for the lake requires legislative funding. Bush said he will seek $25 million in next year's budget. This year, the state is tapping into $30 million from other appropriations.
Under the plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will revise its regulations on lake levels by December so that less unhealthy water is discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. That will also help dry out marshes in Lake Okeechobee itself.
Last year, four major hurricanes combined to raise lake levels and stir up pollution. The added depth and muck blocks sunlight -- killing fish and plants.
The restoration plan also envisions construction of a 4,000-acre reservoir ahead of schedule in 2009 and an additional 3,500 acres of stormwater treatment areas that would divert and cleanse lake discharges.
Source: Associated Press