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Relief for Lake Okeechobee Is on the Way

Fish, Fish, Fish

Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest U.S. lake wholly within a single state (and one of the shallowest) was once one of the most prolific fish-producing waterbodies in the country and host to world-class bass fishing tournaments. It is also the main drinking-water source for much of south Florida.

A Pain in the Bass

In recent years, Lake O has become a virtual cesspool, recipient of polluted runoff from dairy farms and cattle ranches to the north and sugarcane fields to the south. During wet periods, fertilizer- and pesticide-laden water is pumped from cane fields into the lake for storage. The bass fishery is mostly a memory and drinking water is tainted.

To the Rescue

In 2002, the Florida Wildlife Federation, represented by Earthjustice, sued the South Florida Water Management District seeking to force the agency to comply with the federal Clean Water Act (the district claimed it was exempt), and on June 15, 2007, the judge ruled that the district indeed must obey the law. This means that the agency must apply for a discharge permit that will severely restrict the discharges.