Lake O coalition grows to include 10 counties

OKEECHOBEE — The County Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and the Lake Worth Lagoon now includes 10 counties as voting members.

At the Feb. 7 meeting, Charlotte County officially joined the group, represented by Commissioner Ken Dougherty, a retired civil engineer who has a lot of experience in water resources.

The 16 counties in the South Florida Water Management District are eligible to participate in the coalition. Voting members pay dues to fund the administrative costs.

Voting members of the coalition also include Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

At the meeting, many commissioners shared good news about their counties.

Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner said he is excited that the Four Corners Watershed Ecological Restoration Project was awarded at $4.2 million grant.

“The project has been on the books, ready to be built for 25 plus years,” he said.

This drainage project was designed to provide both additional storage and conveyance for storm water to the Caloosahatchee River during large storm events and to improve water quality.

“The Bass Pro project is still alive, in the permitting stage,” said Okeechobee County Commissioner David Hazellief. “We are doing everything we can to assist them.”

Osceola County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb said the Shingle Creek basin study is out to bid. She said they also want to do more stormwater treatment projects.

“While we may have had overall less rainfall, it seems like we have had more intense storms, have more problems with flooding,” she explained.

“We need to have adequate stormwater storage and treatment.”

She said both the Florida House and the Florida Senate are considering legislation that would move the oversight for septic tanks from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection.

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