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Osceola County Gets Boost to Tackle Invasive Plants in Northern Lake Tohopekaliga

Osceola County Gets Boost to Tackle Invasive Plants
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Clément Bardot

Osceola County Gets Boost to Tackle Invasive Plants

By Ciara Perez, News Reporter | iSkyCreations - News & Media (ISC)Publish Date: June 26th, 2024

Osceola County, Florida – Osceola County has received a major financial boost with a $640,000 appropriation from the state legislature to tackle invasive vegetation in the Northern lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga. This funding will support a one-time project aimed at improving flood control for the Upper Kissimmee Basin, an area that saw significant flooding during Hurricane Ian in 2022.

The Upper Kissimmee River Basin plays a crucial role in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed, contributing a third of the surface water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and its nearby estuaries.

“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.”

The north lobe of Lake Tohopekaliga was cut off from the main lake when the St. Cloud and Sugarbelt Railway was built in the 1880s. Further changes, like the channeling of East City Ditch and Mill Slough in the 1940s, led to more sediment and nutrient flow into the north lobe. This turned the area into a mucky slough overrun with invasive plants, reducing its ecological value.

Development along Mill Slough and East City Ditch north of U.S. Highway 192 has limited opportunities to manage sediment and nutrient inflows. This has caused significant vegetative overgrowth and decreased flood conveyance, leading to increased flooding in older developed areas such as the Dellwood and Mill Run subdivisions and along U.S. Highway 441 in Kissimmee. During

Hurricane Ian in 2022, this area experienced flooding levels not seen since 1952.

The State of Florida is responsible for managing invasive plant species in its lakes, rivers, and waterways. Besides the $640,000 for Lake Tohopekaliga, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency in charge, received an additional $3 million to tackle invasive plant species across Central and South Florida, including Lake Tohopekaliga.

This investment is a significant step towards maintaining the ecological health and flood resilience of one of Florida’s vital waterways, ensuring it remains a vibrant and sustainable resource for the community.


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