Lake Okeechobee

Compromise Water Measure Heads To Gov. Scott

May 3, 2017

Florida could bond up to $800 million — two-thirds the amount previously sought by the Senate — to speed construction of a reservoir intended to help clean South Florida waterways, under a compromise measure heading to Gov. Rick Scott.

A bill that looks to "un-muddy" the mission of Florida's main environmental land acquisition program could potentially affect the plan for an Everglades reservoir.

Amy Green / WMFE

Gov. Rick Scott waded into the legislative battle over Everglades restoration Monday.

The governor gave support to a revised Senate water-storage plan and called for lawmakers to financially help the federal government speed repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee.

Read more about the debate to restore the Everglades: River Of Grass, Dying Of Thirst

Negron Trims Controversial Water Plan

Apr 5, 2017

Senate President Joe Negron on Tuesday toned down a wide-ranging water bill intended to protect his district's waterways, as he sought to make it more palatable to House leaders and people living south of Lake Okeechobee.

Dry weather has caused the water level in Lake Okeechobee drop below the minimum range targeted for South Florida’s drinking water supply.

Questions Linger Over Negron’s Water Priority

Apr 2, 2017

Senate President Joe Negron's priority of creating a reservoir to protect rivers and estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee appears to have a murky future.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Artist Jenna Efrein loves the Everglades. Since moving to South Florida, she's spent a lot of time exploring the ecosystem and learning about the challenges it faces. That passion -- and 10 years of gymnastics experience -- have shaped an installation of her work on display now at the Wynwood Building.

Amy Green / WMFE

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reversing its stance and now says it must follow a schedule calling for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in 2021.

The corps had said it could accelerate the project aimed at improving water flow after toxic algae blooms last year prompted emergency declarations in four counties.

Colonel Jason Kirk now says the reservoir must wait.

Amy Green / WMFE

Karson Turner reaches into a grassy row of sugar cane. He grips a stalk, jointed like bamboo, and breaks it, revealing the sweetness inside.

"This will go into the mill, which you can just about see if you take about 20 steps backward you can see the smokestacks. And those get grinded, that raw sucrose that gets pushed out becomes the basis of table sugar that you and I consume all the time," says Turner. 

Amy Green / WMFE

Among the cow pastures and citrus groves of Florida's heartland north of Lake Okeechobee, patches of wetlands serve as kidneys for the Everglades.

"It filters out all of the impurities, in this case we're talking about nutrients, phosphorous in particular," says Ernie Marks of the South Florida Water Management District.

Marks steps through the grass framing the expanse of reeds and rushes. The vegetation sieves from the water the nutrient responsible for toxic algae blooms. Wading birds like egrets flap among the cabbage palms.

Kate Stein / WLRN

If you scoop a glassful of water from the heart of the Everglades, that water is as pure and clear as the water that flows from your tap.

That’s because chances are good your tap water comes from the Everglades.

One in three Floridians -- more than eight million of us -- gets drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer a few feet below the southeastern Everglades. The ecosystem acts as a natural filter, removing excess nutrients and keeping out seawater.

Kate Stein / WLRN

Let’s start with what we’re losing: 

One of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, from sawgrass to cypress trees, apple snails to alligators. The historic home of Florida’s Miccosukee and Seminole tribes. A national park.

The ecosystem that ensures fresh drinking water for more than 8 million Floridians.

Everglades advocate Marjory Stoneman Douglas talked about all this in an interview in 1983.

South Florida Water managers heard presentations recently on their options for underground water storage. These are possible solutions to excess fresh water that sometimes fills Lake Okeechobee, leading to harmful discharges in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Experts say one choice is more ideal than another.

Planning for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is scheduled to begin in 2021. The reservoir is crucial to restoring the Everglades, and the project could get started sooner if funding were available.

The reservoir is aimed at restoring a more natural flow of water to the Everglades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work with the state on the project.

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