Katara Simmons/News-Sun A fisherman finds a dry spot to stand Thursday morning near the bridge over Lake Jackson in Sebring. The wet summer raised the water level under the bridge high enough that boats can go between Lake Jackson and Little Lake Jackson, but residents are worried about what will happen when the water goes back down and the canal becomes too shallow to navigate once again.
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published: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Lake residents still fighting for dredging project
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- Members of the Friends of Erin Park Canals and Little Lake Jackson Inc. have voiced more concerns over the canals and water levels surrounding their property.
After several years of complaints, proposals and plans, the residents have yet to have any of their concerns taken care of by legislators, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) or the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
George Atkinson, a board member of the organization, recently wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Scott explaining how over the past 18 years nothing has been done to reconcile the issue of the low water levels, sand bars and the channel between Little Lake Jackson and Lake Jackson that goes under U.S. 27.
"We don't know what else to do. We are just at the end of our rope," said Atkinson. "Since we got another rejection notice from FDEP in January, we've heard nothing from anyone. I sent the letter to Gov. Scott on Oct. 15 and we still haven't heard anything back from Tallahassee yet."
The letter spells out the issues of the restricted access between the two lakes. Since the drop in water levels over the past several years, the channel has been unnavigable with approximately only a foot of water in the area. Sand bars created by the 2004 hurricanes also pose a huge problem for boats in the area.
This year's exceptionally wet season has improved things for the boaters wanting to go under the bridge, but does not provide a permanent solution to the issue.
"Right now there's not a problem. You can get through there now because of all the rain we had this summer, but I've never seen the water this high in years. The problem will be on down the road when it dries up and goes back down. We'll be back where we started," Atkinson said. "Nobody went through that canal when the level was low."
The members have laid out plans to remove the sand bar and dredge the channel but to no avail. Atkinson said the organization's efforts have been rejected by FDOT, FDEP and legislators every step of the way.
"FDOT would not allow dredging when we requested it in 2007 and 2008. In January of this year, we developed another dredging plan to remove the sandbars and deepen the channels. FDOT denied us a permit," Atkinson said.
Though property values have decreased due to the water levels and issues surrounding the lakes, property owners have yet to give up hope on beautifying and correcting their neighborhood and will continue the fight.
Their chance to speak their mind and gain some help in the fight may be just around the corner after State Senator Denise Grimsley's office revealed that an FDOT representative will be in Sebring Wednesday for the county's Legislative Delegation meeting.
FDOT District 1 office confirmed the information Friday afternoon.
"DOT Legislative Governmental Affairs liaison Zachary Burch will be present in Sebring Wednesday to address the lake issues," said Cheri Kelley, communication office administrative assistant.
The delegation will meet in the Highlands County Commission chambers in the Government Center, 600 S. Commerce Ave., beginning at 2 p.m.
Many improvements needed (by: Jay M. - 11/2/2013)
Not only does underneath the bridge need dredging, but in other areas of the lake as well and maybe they should consider expanding the bridge.. I hope the have the idea in mind that the sand needed to fill the huge hole near the pier in downtown Sebring could come from underneath the 27 bridge.
State of Florida (by: Blindman~ - 10/28/2013)
Even people who do not live on Little Lake Jackson would like to see this done.
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