The state Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday announced the adoption of a 10-year restoration plan for Lake Okeechobee that is expected to reduce phosphorous entering the lake by one-third. The $750 million “basin management action plan” identifies a variety of projects intended to lessen the influx of nutrient-rich water into the lake, create water-treatment areas and establish stormwater treatment areas for both urban and agricultural areas, according to a news release from the department.
“Restoring the waters of Lake Okeechobee and the northern Everglades is a key step in preserving the greater Everglades ecosystem for generations to come,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a prepared statement.
Environmental groups, in comments included in the department’s announcement, praised the lake-restoration plan they helped create and noted more work is needed.
“Cleaning up the lake is a huge undertaking, and the (basin management action plan) is a good first step in that effort,” Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said in the release.
“The plan includes projects that significantly reduce harmful phosphorous entering the lake and requires verification of the effectiveness of pollution control practices,” Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said in the release. “In future iterations, Audubon will continue to recommend additional measures to control and treat pollution.”
Water issues statewide are expected to get plenty of attention in the 2015 legislative session. A group of senators is expected to again push to increase funding to preserve some of the state’s most endangered natural springs.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that dedicates fees from real estate transactions to water-resource projects and land-conservation efforts.