Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are depending on both additional water storage and cleaning in the watershed north of the lake to improve lake health and reduce the frequency and magnitude of harmful discharges to the estuaries. This is a tall order but with recent progress on three projects north of Lake Okeechobee, we’re gratified to see momentum building for this long-time Audubon priority.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE COMPONENT A RESERVOIR
The new Lake Okeechobee Component A Reservoir study, headed up by the SFWMD, is focused on identifying additional above-ground water storage options north of Lake Okeechobee. This is particularly important because this is the largest water storage component envisioned for the area north of the lake. Once complete, water loaded with nutrients can be captured and cleaned before flowing into the lake.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE WATERSHED RESTORATION PROJECT
The Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP), with leadership from the Army Corps of Engineers, targets north-of-the-lake storage and treatment efforts. In particular, LOWRP seeks to improve water level management in the lake through increased water storage and restoring Kissimmee River floodplain wetlands.
LOWER KISSIMMEE STORMWATER TREATMENT AREA
The Lower Kissimmee Stormwater Treatment Area, a new project led by the SFWMD and private partners, is currently in the conceptual phases. This project would support water quality improvements by addressing nutrient discharges to Lake Okeechobee from areas such as Taylor Creek/Nubbin Slough and well as the Lower Kissimmee and Indian Prairie areas—some of the most Lake Okeechobee. polluted areas in the Lake Okeechobee watershed.
Audubon has been a long-standing advocate of north-of-Lake Okeechobee projects, and we are confident that together, these initiatives will improve the health of Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries, and the Everglades.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 State of the Everglades report.