Osceola County Secures $640,000 State Funding to Combat Invasive Plants in Northern Lake Tohopekaliga

Osceola County Secures $640,000 State Funding to Combat Invasive Plants in Northern Lake Tohopekaliga
Osceola County Secures $640,000 State Funding to Combat Invasive Plants in Northern Lake Tohopekaliga

Osceola County has successfully secured a $640,000 appropriation from the state legislature to address the issue of invasive plants in the Northern lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga. The funding will support a one-time vegetative harvesting project aimed at improving flood conveyance for the Upper Kissimmee Basin. The initiative comes in response to the significant flooding experienced during Hurricane Ian in 2022, highlighting the urgent need for such environmental maintenance.

The Upper Kissimmee River Basin plays a crucial role in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed. It is a major source of surface water, contributing one-third of the inflow to Lake Okeechobee. This inflow is essential for maintaining the water levels and ecological health of both Lake Okeechobee and the adjacent coastal estuaries, highlighting the basin’s significant impact on the region’s water system.

“Funding this initiative is the right thing for the State of Florida to do. This project is expected to yield long-term benefits for both flood management and the ecological integrity of the Upper Kissimmee Basin,” said Osceola County Commission Chair Cheryl Grieb. “It makes sense to invest in a healthy lake in a section that is a showpiece for the City of Kissimmee and enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors. By addressing the overgrowth in North Lake Tohopekaliga, we are not only improving flood management but also restoring ecological balance to this crucial waterway.”

Historically, the north lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga was isolated from the main lake following the construction of the St. Cloud and Sugarbelt Railway in the 1880s. Further alterations, including the channelization of East City Ditch and Mill Slough in the 1940s, exacerbated sediment and nutrient flow into the north lobe, transforming it into a mucky slough with overgrown nuisance plant species and diminished ecological value.

Development along Mill Slough and East City Ditch north of US Highway 192 has restricted opportunities to mitigate sediment and nutrient inflows, resulting in significant vegetative overgrowth and decreased flood conveyance. This has led to increased flooding along these waterways, particularly impacting older developed areas such as the Dellwood and Mill Run subdivisions, as well as US Highway 441 in Kissimmee, which experienced unprecedented flooding during Hurricane Ian in 2022, a level not seen since 1952.

The State of Florida is responsible for managing invasive plant species throughout the State’s lakes, rivers, and navigable waterways. In addition to this award, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency tasked with this responsibility, also received an additional one-time appropriation of $3 million to address invasive plant species throughout Central and South Florida – including lake Tohopekaliga.


Osceola County, Florida – Osceola County will benefit from a $640,000 appropriation from the state legislature aimed at reducing vegetation in the northern lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga. This critical funding will support a unique vegetation harvesting project designed to improve flood evacuation in the Upper Kissimmee Basin, addressing concerns highlighted by flooding experienced during Hurricane Ian in 2022.

The upper Kissimmee River basin is a major component of the Lake Okeechobee basin and contributes one-third of the surface water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and its adjacent coastal estuaries.

“Funding this initiative is the right thing for the State of Florida to do. This project is expected to provide long-term benefits to both flood management and the ecological integrity of the Upper Kissimmee Watershed,” said Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb. “It makes sense to invest in a healthy lake in a section that is a showpiece for the city of Kissimmee and enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors. By addressing overgrowth in northern Lake Tohopekaliga, we are not only improving flood management but also restoring the ecological balance of this crucial waterway.”

Historically, the northern lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga was isolated from the main lake following the construction of the St. Cloud and Sugarbelt Railroad in the 1880s. Other alterations, including the canalization of East City Ditch and Mill Slough in the 1940s, exacerbated the flow of sediments and nutrients towards the northern lobe, transforming it into a quagmire full of nuisance plant species and with diminished ecological value.

Development along Mill Slough and East City Ditch north of US Highway 192 has restricted opportunities to mitigate sediment and nutrient inputs, resulting in excessive vegetation growth and decreased evacuation of sediments. floods. This has led to increased flooding along these waterways, particularly affecting older developed areas such as the Dellwood and Mill Run subdivisions, as well as US Highway 441 in Kissimmee, which experienced Record flooding during Hurricane Ian in 2022, a level not seen since 1952.

The State of Florida is responsible for the management of invasive plant species in all lakes, rivers, and navigable waterways in the state. In addition to this award, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency charged with this responsibility, also received a one-time additional allocation of $3 million to combat invasive plant species throughout Central and South Florida, including Lake Tohopekaliga.

 
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