Lake Okeechobee Ridge of Muck Removal Begins.
May 31, 2001
Photo story album below.
The Florida Wildlife Commission today began the removal of several areas of a muck ridge or berm along the north shore of Lake Okeechobee near Indian Prairie Canal. The berm was created by high water levels over the past few years, composed mostly of dead vegetation that was killed and piled in a ridge from wave action. The berm had in effect cut off miles and miles of shallow water areas from the main lake, destroying wildlife habitat and fish spawning areas and at the same time allowing noxious weeds and plants to start the process of pushing out native grasses and plants . Don Fox of FWC, first noted the serious situation about three years ago, and has fought ever since to get it removed. The FWC took the lead in the removal while the opportunity was presented by the very low water levels in the lake. The Corp. of Engineers will be assisting with the project and should be on site in 6 weeks . I spent the day on the site project with Doug Harter of the Corp's Clewiston office, to see first hand the operation as it started. The pictures below are from the first hours of starting the removal. Forrest Hill Construction of Wellington, FL is the contractor doing the work. As the muck is removed from the lake bottom, it is piled into what will become a new island approximately 260 feet square and 18 feet high. This island will be planted with native species of trees and cover to retain the muck and keep it in place. This will provide additional habitat for the many forms of wildlife that live in the Okeechobee basin.
While the water level is low in the lake is the perfect time to try and recover a part of this huge and extremely unique part of our environment. Lake Okeechobee is the headwaters of the Everglades, which is scheduled for a 20 year re-vitalization program. The biggest problem in the near future is keeping the agriculture powers and users of Okeechobee's water resource along the East coast, from trying to get the level raised too quickly. There has been very little recovery in the grasses that were destroyed by the artificially high water levels of past years at this time. It is a well known fact that if the water comes back up to a level over 13 feet in a short time, that all gains will be lost.
South Florida Water Management is the responsible agency for keeping the water within the correct level. They were also the agency that was responsible for the extremely high water levels over past years. After a three year battle with SFWMD, they caved in to pressure from all directions, and released the water to a more normal level. Then South Florida was ushered into a period of severe drought and the water has receded to record lows, though local agriculture has not really suffered from the low levels. A lot of the demand for water is from the golf courses and large estates along the East Coast of Florida for lawn watering, yet the political power from that area will push for higher water levels to satisfy there needs, regardless of the damage to the lake. The people of Florida and the rest of the nation must be heard and not let a few powers destroy the one last chance at saving Lake Okeechobee.
by: Walt Reynolds, BASS Touring Pro
Photos by Walt Reynolds 5/31/2001
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