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Lake Okeechobee

Old 12-17-2003, 04:13 PM
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Question Lake Okeechobee

I've never been to Lake Okeechobee. What's it like? Is the perimeter heavily populated? A lot of boats? Depth? I would assume it's fresh-water, but the map I was looking at shows it being linked to the ocean... is it salt (shark ) free?
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Old 12-17-2003, 04:22 PM
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It's a swamp, it's average depth is 12 feet. But it has some of the best bass fishing in the USA.
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Old 12-17-2003, 04:34 PM
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I've been there, didn't boat. Very unpopulated from what I saw. If it is freshwater and gator free, looks like it would be great for skiing. Being hot down there and shallow, imagine the water must get really warm...
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Old 12-17-2003, 04:53 PM
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Lake Okeechobee is a stagnent, fetid swamp. It's fit for boating but very restricted because most of it is shallow.

And Okeechobee county...hoowee, don't let the sun set on your back.
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Old 12-17-2003, 04:54 PM
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South end is basically a swamp, I wouldnt go near it with anything other than a bass boat. North End is HUGE, but I believe it is still very shallow, no sharks, but I wouldnt count out the gaters, and snakes, after all it is freshwater in South florida, gators can be anywhere!!!! There are some boat ramps, or you can come in through the locks on the North end, cant remember the river on my side, but to the west it is Calootchahatchee?? river, you can go from the Atlantic to the Gulf right through the lake(Locks). There are some Homes, and camps around the Perimiter, but mostly on the perimiter canal, not on the lake itself. It is our water supply, so dont Pi$$ in it!!!!!!
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Old 12-17-2003, 04:59 PM
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Lake Okeechobee comprises a 730 square-mile area in Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach, and Hendry Counties. (see map). It's average depth is 9 feet with a maximum depth of 17 feet. Lake Okeechobee is the second largest natural lake in the United States of America, holding more than a trillion gallons of water. Recharge comes from precipitation and southward flow of water from the Kissimmee River. Historically, hydropattern flowed southward over millions of acres.

Hydropattern History

"The Everglades, once defined by a broad, slow moving sheet of water flowing south and southwest from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, extended nearly 50 miles wide and more than 100 miles long" (Davis, 1994). "In the 1950s - an era of both technological ambition and arrogance - a system of canals, dikes, and pumping stations were installed to distribute water to the Everglades Agricultural Areas from Lake Okeechobee" (The Miami Herald, 1996). Hoover Dike was constructed along the southern regions of Lake Okeechobee to prevent flooding while also yielding year-round crop production. Torry mucks of the region contain 50 per cent or more mineral matter by weight and have considerably more native fertility than sawgrass mucks, which were formed under oligotrophic conditions.

Environmental Consequences of Anthropogenic Alterations

Hoover Dike was initially beneficial to agricultural production. However, nearly half a century later, certain environmental consequences are recognized as a result of those actions. The region's nutrient-rich sediment, once called 'black gold', was depleted due to flood prevention actions. Historically, seasonal runoff from Lake Okeechobee enriched the sediment. Today, current flood prevention practices alter the waterflow, and agriculturists must use pesticides and fertilizers to compensate for the lack of this natural supplement.

The Everglades ecosystem is degraded by the influx of chemicals from upstate agricultural areas and by the depletion of freshwater sheetflow. In the early 1980s, eutrophication in Lake Okeechobee persisted as a result of this runoff from northern agriculturists, primarily dairy, and backpumping of southern agricultural areas into the Lake. This nutrient-rich water promoted the growth of species-rich sawgrass, wetland and tree island ecosystems. Algal blooms, cattails and exotic vegetation, such as Melaleuca, currently reduce the water quality and ecological habitat.

Current Restoration & Funding

According to Everglades Program Implementation Plans, ECP-10, HR-4, and REG-2 are the main construction, hydropattern restoration, and regulatory programs that pertain to the Okeechobee Basin, respectively (SFWMD & FDEP, 1996). A revenue program will be developed and implemented by the District to levy ad valorem taxes up to 0.1 mil within the Lake Okeechobee Basin.


The lack of scientific knowledge about Lake Okeechobee's ecosystem has hindered successful restoration projects. Research, feasibility studies, and model development must be the primary future focus of Lake Okeechobee Restoration. Comparable natural hydropatterns can be restored. However, without reducing nutrients and chemical concentrations, exotic vegetation will persist. Exotic vegetation currently covers hundreds of acres along Lake Okeechobee. New agricultural practices must be implemented and enforced to prevent exotic fauna and flora from further destroying the natural ecosystem of the Everglades.

The historic water quantity from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades must also be restored. Critical reductions of waterflow by canals to coastal estuaries will be necessary in order to achieve historical depths. Reducing waterflow to these estuaries will also increase water depths in the southern regions of Lake Okeechobee. Many endangered and threatened wading birds, such as the Wood Stork, require historic water depths to successfully nest.

Restoration will yield significant economic benefits to local residents. Chemical toxins produced as a result of algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee kill thousands of fish per year. Recreational fishing and tourism generate millions of dollars to the local economy. Restoration of the Lake will ensure continued eco-tourism, economic benefits, and long-term sources of revenue for the local residents.

Restoration will never be successful without the support of the local community. By educating the agriculturists, students, and the general public, support for future Lake Okeechobee restoration projects will be strengthened. In the early 1990s, by educating agriculturists about environmental degradation, elevated nutrient and chemical concentrations in stormwater runoff have been successfully reduced. However, high nutrient levels within the lake continue to promote algal blooms. Students and academia are the future. Without education, current restoration efforts will be lost.

Best Management Practices are utilized in Chapter 298 Districts in the southern region of Lake Okeechobee (see map). Nutrient concentrations are reduced by plant assimilation as the water flows southward from Lake Okeechobee. Best Management Practices must be constructed in the northern region of Lake Okeechobee to reduce elevated-nutrient concentration from entering the lake.

Jennifer Parris


The Upper East Coast of South Florida includes St. Lucie and Martin counties. In the past, these areas were utilized as citrus and cattle farms. In more recent years, much of the area has been transformed by urban development. Past and present changes have significantly altered the original habitat.

The Upper East Coast may not be considered as part of the historic Everglades. However, the area contributes to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. In the past, the area was inundated with rainwater for most, if not all of the year. Runoff from the Upper East Coast flowed into the Everglades in a sheet flow. Today, canals, such as the St. Lucie Canal, divert this water to the ocean to prevent flooding in developed areas. Now that these counties are developed and the natural landscape has been paved, the chance of this water reaching its historic destination are slim.

Urban development also poses other problems. Development brings people, which means increased water usage, more pollution, and less water and habitat for native wildlife. In 1990, the population in South Florida exceeded 5.2 million, and it is projected to reach 8 million by 2010 (SFWMD, 1997). This rapid increase in the population will only increase the demand for water.

Current Restoration

The Indian River Lagoon is being considered for Regional Attenuation Facilities (RAF's). RAF's would be used to temporarily hold flood waters and allow a more natural flow of fresh water into estuaries. This will also aid in the demand for a supply of irrigation water.

Florida Yards and Neighbors are educational programs used to educate the public about nine areas of concern ranging from irrigation and recycling of yard waste to storm water management and waterfront issues.

The Manatee Pocket is a 630-acre drainage basin. Construction of a 40-acre ft. stormwater detention facility to treat stormwater runoff from the Manatee Pocket is planned.

The Loxahatchee River Aquatic Preserve will create 3.6 acres of wetland and improve 2.7 acres of existing mangrove wetlands.


As part of the restoration, the Upper East Coast should consider water uses and how to better utilize their rainwater. With the population increasing so rapidly, alternate sources of water need to be investigated. Research needs to be conducted concerning pollutant levels in stormwater runoff from these areas. A continued effort to educate the public about their role in water conservation and how they affect the Everglades is also needed. Since this area is not normally thought of as part of the Everglades Restoration, hydrologic and water quality contributions may be overlooked.

Tiffany Vaughn


The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), completed in 1962, is 1,181 square miles (700,000 acres) of primarily sugar cane farming. It is below the southeastern border of Lake Okeechobee and extends to Water Conservation Area 1 (WCA-1) in western Palm Beach, Martin, Hendry, and Glades Counties (see map). Farmers grow winter vegetables, rice, and sod, but sugar cane accounts for 88% of total crop coverage. The sugar harvested in the EAA accounts for greater than 50% of national production. The EAA is served by 15 project canals and 25 control structures which are managed by the South Florida Water Management District (see map).

History Of EAA

The Everglades Agricultural Area was formally designated in the latter part of the 1950's. During the drainage era of 1906-1927, approximately 50,000 acres were farmed. During the agricultural boom of the 1950's, production soared to 120,000 acres, and by 1973, there were 120 sugar cane farms, covering 200,000 acres, producing 800,000 tons of sugar. In just two years, sugar cane crops accounted for 300,000 acres. Today, sugarcane covers 575,000 acres of land in the EAA.

EAA Impacts To The Everglades

The EAA alters the natural sheetflow and hydrology of the historic Everglades and decreases water quality. Crops in the EAA grow best when the water table is kept at a constant level. Historically, the water table has never been consistent in the Everglades. During the wet season, the EAA is kept drier than normal, and during the dry season, it is kept wetter than normal. The EAA decreases water quality in the following ways:

Increased nutrients in runoff due to soil subsidence and fertilizers.

Contamination with herbicides and pesticides.
The EAA also represents a major loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, creating the perfect setting for invasion by exotic flora.

Restoration Objectives

The following are restoration objectives as proposed by the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:

Control Subsidence.*

Take advantage of natural hydrology and weather patterns.

Enhance ecology of the area.

Decrease phosphorous loads to Everglades.

* Soil Subsidence is a natural process that results in the production of phosphorous due to oxidation by intense sunlight. This process has been greatly accelerated in the EAA due to the lowering of the water table.
Solutions And Proposed Solutions

The following solutions have been proposed by the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:

Decrease soil subsidence by keeping water table higher.

Switch to crops that can grow at higher water levels.

Rotate crops based on natural hydrologic cycles-wet crops in summer, dry crops in winter.

Research into the development of sugar cane that can grow at higher water tables.

Use of Best Management Practices (BMP's) to treat water before it leaves farms.

Create 40,000 acres of Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA's).

Continue Everglades Nutrient Removal Project (ENRP) which decreases the amount of nutrients sent to Everglades.
Everglades Forever Act Accomplishments For The EAA

Phosphorous from EAA runoff has been decreased 68% from May 1995 to April of 1996, under BMP's.

Some STA designs have been completed.

The acquisition for parcels of land for STA's have been completed.

Thirty alternative water treatment technologies have been evaluated.

Public ownership of the 21,412 acres out of 47,500.
Everglades Nutrient Removal Project Accomplishments For The EAA

Removed 90,000 pounds of phosphorous.

Phosphorous levels have decreased by 81% to 24 parts per billion.

Mercury and Methylmercury removal efficiencies range from 50-75%.

Designs for STA's have been completed. Designs include passive public recreation, education facilities, and wetlands.

Completed several research studies, including one that can be used to set minimum water flows and levels.

Consider the rate of soil subsidence when planning restoration efforts. In 1912, 95% of soils in the EAA were greater than 5 feet. By the year 2000, 45% of soils will be less than 1 foot, and 87% will be less than three feet (Davis and Ogden, 1995). If subsidence does follow this prediction, the EAA will no longer be arable. Therefore, proper plans should be drawn for reflooding efforts, and the prevention of further exploitation, such as cattle farming and/or phosphate mining.

Prevent expansion of EAA. Secure as much land as possible in the EAA and surrounding areas.

Consider flooding EAA. Relocation or retraining of displaced workers may be less expensive in the long run (especially if the soil continues to subside at the current rate).
Molly Row


Three Water Conservation Areas (WCA), located in the western portions of Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade Counties encompass 1,337 square-miles. The WCA's make up the largest remnants of the original Everglades. The area, together with Everglades National Park, preserves about 50 per cent of the original Everglades. The conservation areas are divided into three sections known as WCA-1, WCA-2, and WCA-3 (see map). They are located between the EAA to the north, Everglades National park to the south, urban areas to the east, and largely undeveloped lands to the west.
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Old 12-17-2003, 05:03 PM
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Here is a link to the best photos of it available on the web.
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Old 12-17-2003, 06:04 PM
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I have been there a few times and really enjoyed it. I have freinds in Belle Glade on the south end of the lake. I would agree you don't want to be out running around at night. They spend the winters at a campground inside the rim ditch. It is a very shallow and unpredictable lake. A little wind can really change the depth and it can get rough. There are trails running through the grass but they change quickly with the current and wind. I have never been through the channel across the lake though. What I have seen it is not much of an offshore boat lake.
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Old 12-17-2003, 06:17 PM
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FPC does a coast-to-coast run through the lake in the Spring. It and the Key west Poker run are at the top of my list.

Your OSO connection to great S. Florida Real Estate.
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Old 12-17-2003, 06:27 PM
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I was there a few months ago and it looked like the Ocean.. Big and Blue.
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