In the late 1920s, hurricanes forced walls of wind driven water over the lake's edges, causing catastrophic flooding. Another series of hurricanes in the late 1940s, along with several severe droughts and development pressures led to the construction of a 30 foot earthen wall around much of the lake.
Other changes, including deepening and connecting waterways to the lake that once were only connected under very wet conditions, brought enhanced flood protection and navigation to the region, and helped protect regional water supplies. But the changes also had unintended consequences.
Lake Okeechobee Today
The big lake's health is affected by changes in water levels as well as by nutrients and pollutants that may flow, directly or indirectly, into the lake.
Day to day, the big lake is managed, and its outlets operated by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. By monitoring Lake Okeechobee's waters, the SFWMD is gaining a better understanding of this essential part of South Florida's heritage, and can make more accurate predictions and plans for the continuing protection of this great resource.
Increasing water storage around/outside the lake is one aspect of plans to give the SFWMD more flexibility in operations, and reduce the need for large discharges of freshwater which could harm estauries.
Other programs reduce nutrients and other pollutants entering the lake.