Feds County & City Officials Need To Open Their Eyes

After taking up permanent residency in the sunshine state in June 2009, my plan was to learn as much about lakes within a 50 mile radius as possible. Sure there’s plenty of them but access is limited to many….private property, gated communities, and then there’s the problem of low water….but we’ve had all this rain. Visualize a target with the center being the drought area. The further away from the center, the more precip….It seems certain areas have reaped Ma Natures benefits but many still suffer….Clermont Chain is a disaster with levels down 4’….home owners that once could walk out to their dock and launch their boat are now staring at brush or beachfront. Connecting canals to the many lakes that once flowed freely are nothing more than a trickle or foot path in the sand.

The Harris Chain has had the locks closed to release water at Moss Bluff since 4/27/2012 until further notice. Not once has any lake on the Harris Chain reached the maximum desired level since closure but has been lucky to reach the minimum desired level. Many canals and fish camps that once had docks at each water front property have boats sitting in mud or on the trailer because of being so shallow.

Lake Panasoffkee in Sumter County is a great bass factory. The Feds spent in the upper 20 million dollar range to rejuvenate the lake. Last year the lake was 2/3 covered by vegetation. I discussed the low water level with an official from the Southwest Florida Water Management District at a seminar only to be told that “I’m not going to jeopardize a 20 million dollar project so some property owners can get their row boats out of the channel”.  These row boats include several businesses that their livelihood depends upon the water level. Panasoffkee’s water level can be regulated. There was only 2 areas that a boat could be launched on Pan….Tracy’s Point & Coleman. In 2012 & much of 2013 it left Werda Hecamiat & Pana Vista Fishing Lodge with so little water they weren’t able to launch boats.

As for some smaller bodies of water such as Lakes Deaton & Okahumpka, they face the same dilemma. Low water, vegetation over growth, and ramps that were almost totally useless. Lake Deaton is 2/3 covered with pads. The lake level gauge at the launch ramp has been below the lowest reading of the gauge for 2 years.

Lake Okahumpka is as bad or worse. There’s a beautiful park like setting with an excellent ramp & dock. Only problem is that if you have an airboat it’ll work. The dock sits on mud. Two years ago it was floating….although shallow but you could at least launch a bassboat. Today….good luck.Okahumpka

On Feb 25th I attended the Sumter County Commissioner meeting to speak in “Public Forum”. The Commission had authorized to spend $66,000 in 2013 to promote fishing, hiking, birding, & whatever other outdoor activities within the County. I advised them that there’s 3 excellent boat ramps in the County….Lake Miona, Coleman at Panasoffkee, & Okahumpka….and Okahumpka was useless. I recommended that the Okahumpka launch ramp area be dredged and to my surprise the Commission agreed. Paperwork will be submitted prior to June 1, 2014 to have a contractor dredge out the area. When the “job” will be accomplished is unknown but it’s in the works.

Pertaining to Lake Deaton….I’ve received notification from the City of Wildwood that they are “Looking into the matter” and will get back to me shortly. Deaton is surrounded by The Villages. The Villages has nothing to do with this body of water but one thing for sure, ever since the expansion both lakes Deaton & Okahumpka have been depleted of water by almost a foot. Is it from lack of rain, over watering, or both. Then there’s the water table. You be the judge. But one thing for sure, if this is the NEW NORM something needs to be done to protect our resources or at least “fix it” so we can use it.  Sumter County wants the citizens to utilize what’s here, then they, along with the Feds & the City of Wildwood need to open their eyes.

Steve Henderson

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