Lake Okeechobee Dike Repair

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues Group

 

Lake OkeechobeeLake Okeechobee is the second-largest natural freshwater lake in the continental United States, covering 730 square miles. It was built in the 1930’s using sand, rocks, limestone, clay and peat that came from local dredging.  The federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds the lake requires significant reinvestment that commenced in 2001, but yet remains in desperate need of repair.

For the thousands of Floridians who live in the shadow of the 80-year old dike, there is always a fear that the earthen barrier might fail.  If the dike were built today, better material would be used and it would be packed tighter.

The Army Corps of Engineers oversees the Herbert Hoover Dike.  After Hurricane Irma caused a 3.5 foot increase in the lake, the Corps released lake water through canals to the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts to keep the levels under control and lessen the chance of failure of the 40-foot-high berm, which winds for 142 miles around the lake.  While there was some seepage and even some flowing water coming through the dike, the water was not carrying material from inside the barrier, which would be a sign of possible weakening.

The Corps is halfway through a $1.9 billion renovation program, which is scheduled for completion in 2025, but Governor Rick Scott has pressed for the project to be completed by 2022.  That would require Congress to approve about $200 million a year from 2019 to 2022.  The federal budget for fiscal year 2018 proposed spending $82 million on dike repairs, up from $68 million approved by Congress in 2017.  Florida put $50 million of state money in this year’s budget.  Both federal and state lawmakers have pledged to prioritize repairs to the dike and protect Florida families and the environment for future generations.

 

Sources:

Palm Beach Post     10/06/17, 10/20/17, 10/28/2017