New reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee brings concerns

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CLEWISTON, Fla. People across Florida voiced their concerns on the new plan for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

This was the first public meeting since Gov. Rick Scott signed off on the project earlier this year.

Residents from Clewiston, Fort Myers and along the St. Lucie brought forward their concerns about the water quality on the beaches to the South Florida Water Management District.

“I had people visit me from Illinois,” one attendee said. “They won’t have their children go in the water. They will not come back.”

Matt Morrison with the SFWMD in Clewiston explained that as of right now, the water run off goes into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie estuaries, the cause of the brown, murky water. The new plan is to have a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store 80 billion gallons of water run off.

“Rather than sending large volumes of water to north estuaries, we want to redirect that flow to the south, clean it up and move it into water conversation areas and into Everglades National Park,” Morrison said.

Many attendees weren’t on board with the idea, and many people residing in Clewiston worry about the loss of farm land to build the reservoir.

“Why are we not looking for storage north of the lake?” One attendee questioned during the meeting.

Some attendees are hopeful that the new project will clear up the water.

“We’re seeing a dark plume of water miles out into our ocean,” said Nyla Pipes of One Florida Foundation. “So, yeah, we’ve gotta work on the entire system.”

The SFWMD didn’t release a completion date for the reservoir, but this will expedite the process by about five years.

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