OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Commissioners continue their opposition to the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) plan for the Lower Kissimmee Basin Stormwater Treatment Area (LKBSTA) project.
The LKBSTA project is planned about three miles upstream of Lake Okeechobee on the east side of the Kissimmee River. The property is south of State Road 70 and west of the Lazy 7 subdivision.
The project is designed to pull water from the L-62 canal and clean it before the water is released to the Kissimmee River. If L-62 canal water is not available, the project can pull water from the Kissimmee River (C-38 canal). One inflow pump can convey water from both the L-62 and C-38 canals.
The average water depth in the STA would be about 18 inches, according to the plans shared by EIP. The berm surrounding the STA would be about 4 feet higher than the water. A canal outside the berm would collect any seepage.
“We keep saying there’s better locations,” said Commission Chairman David Hazellief. “We’re not asking them to scrap the project. We’re just asking them to do a better location.”
The commission has asked to be on the agenda for the Dec. 14 SFWMD Governing Board Meeting in West Palm Beach.
“There’s only one dairy left in this basin. This one dairy has zero discharges. The only time they had a discharge in recent years was when we had a hurricane come through,” said Hazellief.
“What’s there is legacy phosphorus,” he stated. It’s not coming from agriculture or from the homes, he added.
Hazellief suggested they find and remove the legacy phosphorus deposits.
“Why not take an excavator and a dump truck and take it to the landfill? In 30 days, you could remove more phosphorus than this project will in 20 years,” Hazellief said.
According to SFWMD presentations, the site is ideal for removing phosphorus because it can clean water form the L-69 canal (which has high levels of phosphorus) as well as from the Kissimmee River. Proximity to the river means the STA can stay hydrated year round.
Residents who live near the proposed project have expressed concerns about changes in the flood zones due to the project, attraction of alligators, increase in the mosquito population and attraction of wading birds which would increase the risk of bird strikes with airplanes. According to pilots, the project is in the flight paths of two private airstrips as well as the Okeechobee County Airport. The U.S. Air Force has also expressed concern that it could impact the training flights for the Avon Park Bombing Ranch.