A project to restore healthy water levels comes as welcome news for people living around Lake Okeechobee. We spoke to a fisherman, who has lived there for decades, about what he would like to see happen.
Scott Martin is a professional angler, show host, and a co-founder of the group Anglers for Lake Okeechobee.
“Growing up on Lake Okeechobee has been awesome, and people ask me all the time, ‘What is the best lake in the country? What is your favorite lake in the country?’” Martin said. “Because I travel all over, and I always come back and say it’s Lake Okeechobee.”
Lake O is near and dear to Martin and also understands its vital importance to nearby communities and the state as a whole.
“I feel like I’ve got a really good understanding of how Lake Okeechobee breathes and how it responds to the different things we do to it,” Martin said.
That’s why Martin welcomes the news of better storage north of the lake, meaning less nutrient-filled water would flow into the lake.
Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project is a combined effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District. Tim Gysan is the USACE project manager for the project.
“This is the opportunity to provide north of the lake storage, which has the positive impact on the ecology and water supply for the lake as well as a positive impact on the releases going to the estuaries,” Gysan explained.
The new project includes the addition of water storage and wells.
Martins says keeping a delicate balance on the lake helps the plants in it, which can act as a natural water filter.
“We need to use the water in Lake Okeechobee and let it filter its own water,” Martin said. “I have been a big advocate over the years of protecting our vegetation, our submerged vegetation.”
USACE and SFWMD plan to release final reports later this week for the project. After the public has time to review it, U.S. Congress still needs to authorize it.