Lake at lowest level in history

CLEWISTON, FL. (April 20, 2001) -- Lake Okeechobee is now at an all-time record low, water managers said this week. Lake Okeechobee is the state's largest lake, and the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the United States. But, according to South Florida Water Management District's Tom Strowd, the low level "is not, in and of itself, some indicator that we are in worse trouble than we were yesterday." But he added "If you had any doubts, this should indicate the severity of the situation we're in." The lake's official level was 9.77 feet above sea level Friday based on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' average of water levels at four gauges around the lake.

The previous record was set in the summer of 1981. Experts say the drought could last until June 2002 with water levels lowering to nearly 7 feet above sea level.

Lake pumping asked to be halted

OKEECHOBEE, FL. (April 20, 2001) -- Three environmental organizations are asking the South Florida Water Management District to stop pumping into Lake Okeechobee. The Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon of Florida and Friends of Lake Okeechobee have petitioned to halt the pumping of farm runoff water containing phosphorus to the lake. The groups are asking for a hearing by the management board. In March and April the district reportedly pumped water containing 1.5 tons of phosphorus into the lake.