December 1, 2016
Local Elected Officials Form Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact
Municipal officials from across a 19-county region encompassing the Northern Everglades Estuaries and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed on Wednesday voted unanimously to support the creation of the Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact.
“Creating this compact is one of the best ways for South Florida to come together and address our water quality issues in a holistic way,” said Stuart Mayor Jeff Krauskopf. “This issue affects us all and the compact is an opportunity for everyone to share in creating the solution.”
Specifically, the compact is a commitment by local government leaders to work together across jurisdictional boundaries to create a comprehensive plan addressing myriad environmental and economic challenges associated with discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The compact also includes commitments to create a joint policy position with funding recommendations to the United States Congress and the Florida Legislature, as well as specific policy recommendations related to land management, stormwater runoff, and septic to sewer programs.
Supported by the Florida League of Cities’ Regional Compact Initiative, this week’s meeting was a follow-up to gatherings in Fort Myers and Stuart on June 22 and September 7. The earlier meeting focused on cities and counties sharing their individual challenges and local solutions, as well as learning from the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify opportunities where joint action would benefit the entire region.
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane has been engaged in the effort since the beginning. “We applaud the Florida League of Cities for helping us come together to work cooperatively in developing the state’s largest regional compact. This is an important tool for building consensus among a diverse stakeholder group on projects critical for Everglades Restoration and reducing the harmful high-flow discharges to the coastal estuaries.”
Next steps for the officials who signed on to the Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact on Wedneday include taking the agreed-upon compact to their individual cities for ratification and then identifying staff resources and expertise to serve on a regional planning team tasked with the creation of a joint strategic plan.
“The 164 cities that are affected by the Lake will now work together to better understand the specific issues involved in Lake Okeechobee management and work with appropriate stakeholders to help solve these problems,” said Okeechobee Vice Mayor Dowling Watford. The City of Okeechobee will consider the compact during its council meeting on December 13.
For more information about the Lake Okeechobee Regional Compact and regional compacts in general, visit www.flregionalcompacts.com.