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Planning Begins On Reservoir North of Lake Okeechobee

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Planning is underway on a reservoir north of Lake Okeechobee amid bitter debate over the state’s water management and a proposed reservoir south of the lake.

The South Florida Water Management District began planning the reservoir north of the state’s largest lake last July as toxic algae triggered emergency declarations in multiple counties.

Paul Gray of Audubon of Florida says both the northern reservoir and another one south of the lake are part of a multi-billion-dollar restoration of the Everglades, the nation’s largest environmental restoration.

“Some people are saying north is better or south is better. And they’re both good. We need them both. You can’t have one or the other. You have to do them both. So this is all on the books. This has all been planned all along. We still need to do it. When we do it is what everybody is arguing about.”

The project puts the state agency charged with administering the restoration at odds with incoming Senate President Joe Negron and environmentalists, who want a southern reservoir first.

Ernie Marks of the South Florida Water Management District says the district must stick to a schedule prioritizing a northern reservoir.

“Any self-respecting water wants to run downhill. If you store water to the north, that gives you ultimate flexibility as to where you send that water.”

He says the northern reservoir will help alleviate the lake discharges that triggered last year’s toxic algae.