Work to raise Lake Hancock’s regulated level was completed in 2015 at great public expense to store water to replenish the depleted Upper Peace River and to comply with a state law requiring water management districts to set minimum flows and levels for water bodies and to come up with plans to restore flows in levels in places where they were lacking.
Now the Southwest Florida Water Management District is proposing formally reserving the water in Lake Hancock for river flow restoration.
A draft study outlining the plan and its background has been prepared and will be the topic of a public meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 8 at Circle B Bar Reserve.
Swiftmud’s Governing Board is scheduled in February to consider authorizing the agency’s staff to proceed with formal rulemaking to implement the reservation.
Some highlights from the study include:
- It will not affect existing permitted water withdrawals from the river, primarily the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority’s withdrawals for public supply for coastal utilities.
- It will not significantly affect the amount of fresh water in the Lower Peace River needed to maintain the proper conditions in the Charlotte Harbor estuary, whose restoration has been the focus of years of efforts under the federal National Estuary Program.
- The reservation precedes a planned reevaluation of minimum flows in the Upper Peace River in 2025, which will also take a look at setting medium and high flow ranges as well, something the environmental community including Sierra Club has long advocated.
The study does not address a conceptual proposal by some Polk officials to establish an off-stream reservoir on mined lands near the Peace River to capture water from high river flows as part of Polk’s long-term water-supply planning and how that would affect the overall river flow standards on all sections of the river.