||Lake Okeechobee restoration is incorporated into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. One goal is to reduce total phosphorus in the lake's water from a current concentration of 110 to 40 ug/L. The information generated from monitoring will be used to adapt the management plan.
One contentious issue has been whether or not to lower the water level of Lake Okeechobee. Scientists believed that a managed recession (drawdown) of water level would benefit the lake ecosystem. There were risks, however, given possible future water shortages and potential environmental impacts to downstream ecosystems receiving large amounts of nutrient-rich fresh water. Agriculture and utility industries favored higher water levels. Recreation users and businesses wanted no or minimal discharge from the lake, regardless of water level. Most recreation users and businesses wanted lower water levels to improve the fishery. An aggressive plan to release water was approved in April 2000. Water quality conditions improved throughout the lake following the releases, and submerged plants made a dramatic recovery. The short-term releases appear to have had no lasting negative impacts on downstream ecosystems. Severe drought conditions developed in the region following the recession, however, and severe water use restrictions were necessary for several months. The local economy, which depends heavily on recreational fishing, suffered when the use of boat launch areas had to be curtailed because of low water levels. (Steinman, A., K. Havens, and L. Hornung. 2002. The managed recession of Lake Okeechobee, Florida: integrating science and natural resource management. Conservation Ecology 6(2): 17. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/art17 .)