This action would literately dry up the navigation
channel in the lake and possibly make the pools formed by the dams on both the west and east coasts of the lake innavigable for boating
Florida Trend - *Florida's Source For Business News
Water agency to tap Lake O nearly to limit to help growers
by Palm Beach Post
In their latest salvo against drought, water
managers are preparing to drain Lake Okeechobee almost to the dregs to keep irrigation supplies flowing to neighboring farms.
The South Florida Water
Management District's strategy could allow the state's largest lake to drop to as low as 6 feet above sea level before the managers have to cut off agriculture entirely. That's nearly 3 feet lower than the record
for the lake set last summer - so low, in fact, that the lake may not have experienced anything like it for thousands of years.
"There may be fish
flipping and flopping on the bottom of the lake as the water goes down," district board Chairman Eric Buermann said Tuesday. Then the board voted 7-0 to endorse a $25 million emergency
plan that could include $1.4 million for the lake-draining pumps. The emergency
plan also includes quick repairs
for floodgates and other canal structures north of the lake that could become vulnerable to erosion or collapse once heavy rains return.
Even with new pumps, the flow of water from the lake will be only a fraction of what the district typically supplies to the farms. It also may be tiny compared with what the 730-square-mile lake loses to evaporation. Still, Buermann said the district must meet its obligations to the sugar, citrus and vegetable growers who rely on the state's largest lake as their prime reservoir. That's especially true because the district refused last summer to augment the lake with polluted farm runoff from the Glades, angering the growers but pleasing environmental groups, he said. Now, the environmentalists may have to live with an ever-shrinking lake, even though they're wary about the ecological cost.