Local News

Sebring reverses course; participates in lake study

— Last month, plans for a study to determine how water seepage causes Lake Jackson’s levels to fall appeared to be in danger.

On a tie vote, the Sebring City Council refused to fund the study, raising questions whether the Highlands County and the Soil and Water Conservation District would participate.

But little doubt existed that the city would reverse its course after Sebring Councilman John Griffin, who was absent from the first meeting, attended the council’s meeting Tuesday and announced his support.

Clell Ford, lakes manager for Highlands County, said Sebring’s backing was important.

“It’s their lake and their support is important,” he said.

Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell said the county would not likely participate if the city didn’t.

The study of the lake could begin as early as July, Ford said. He previously said that 75 percent of the cost of the $420,000 study would come from Southwest Florida Water Management District. Sebring agreed to fund up to $52,000 of the remaining cost, but the final figure could be lower, depending on contributions from other entities.

In supporting the study, Griffin said, “Lake Jackson is a jewel to the city.”

It’s believed that water seepage from the lake into a canal has reduced the lake’s level and should be addressed, he said.

Griffin was joined by council members Lenard Carlisle Jr., Bud Whitlock and Mark Stewart, who had opposed funding the study last month. Councilman Scott Stanley opposed the funding at both meetings.

Stanley questioned spending $420,000 in taxpayer funds for a study that may only confirm what’s already known.

“I think we’re going to know what we know now,” he said.

But Ford said the study will be much more extensive than previous studies and include more monitoring of possible seepage into the canal.

With the last major study being in 1995, Ford said, the seepage situation may have changed during the past 18 years. Technology involved in conducting the study also has advanced, he said.

Although the water level rises during rainy periods, it also drops at times during non-drought periods, he said.

“This study will get us the answers,” he said.

Whitlock agreed that while the study may not provide all the solutions, the city should move forward.

“We know there’s something going wrong,” Whitlock said. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”


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