Local News

Community covers Lake McCoy watershed project shortfall

Community support came through to complete the funding for the Lake McCoy watershed project, to improve the water quality of Lake Placid’s southernmost lake.

Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District Board Member Pam Fentress said Monday that everyone pitched in with their time and financial support.

“It was a phenomenal response,” she said. “I have never seen a group of lake property owners accomplish what they did in the amount of time that they did. Everybody pitched in to make the project happen.”

The first Lake Placid Water Advisory Committee meeting about the funding shortfall was held at 6 p.m. on a Friday, Fentress noted.

Not many people would want to go to a Friday night meeting but 33 showed up and many Lake McCoy landowners pledged to contribute $500 each.

The 56-acre lake receives direct storm water runoff from both U.S. 27 and commercial/industrial land in an area adjacent to U.S. 27, according to a Highlands County Soil and Water Conservation District application with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The water district offered a $127,500 grant to alleviate the runoff and Highlands Soil & Water Conservation District contributed $25,000, but additional funding was needed.

In February, a $17,500 shortfall was cut to $15,000 with the Town of Lake Placid setting aside $2,500 for the project.

By April the shortfall was cut to $4,000.

The engineering firm reduced its price, Fentress said. Duke Energy donated $1,000 and W&W Lumber paid $1,500. The Terraces condo association provided $500 and the remaining $7,000 primarily came from the Lake McCoy landowners at $500 each.

W&W Lumber Manager Brian Ward said Councilwoman Debra Worley put time and effort contacting everyone to get the project finalized.

She talked to him several times about it, Ward said, and she likely talked to W&W Lumber owners Craig and Eva Edwards who wanted to help the community and the environment.

Fentress said work will likely start around March and includes the construction and installation of filtration, swales and drainage features.

Lake McCoy is located on the south end of Lake Placid just east of U.S. 27.

Fentress noted about 10 years ago she was on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

So, she if familiar with the water district’s cooperative funding projects. “But, I have never, in all my time seen a group of landowners pitch in like they did and get it done,” she said.

Fentress also is seeking input on which lake should be targeted for the next project.

Based on a study from about 10 years ago, projects were recommended for Lake Clay, Lake McCoy and Lake June in Lake Placid, and Lake Tulane and Lake Isis in Avon Park, she said. Those five projects are either completed or they have gone through the cooperative funding process.

“I would like to see the next five identified and let us start attacking them,” Fentress said.

As a member of the Lake Placid Water Advisory Committee she is aware of lakes in the area and knows the town council wants the committee to look at Lake Rachard, she said. “What I have learned ... there has to be grass-roots support,” she said. A project would not be pursued if the lake landowners don’t want it, she said.

The project that has the “best fit” will have local support, funding from the water district and someone else paying for the ongoing maintenance, Fentress added.


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