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OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND LAKES: CAREFUL, SOME OF THEM MIGHT BE TRUE

Clell J. Ford Highlands County Natural Resources Department Sebring, FL

Regionally, the Lake Wales Ridge is experiencing lower rainfall for 2006 – 2007 than have been seen in several years, in some cases lower than during the 2000 – 2001 drought. This has led to lower lake levels than experienced in the active tropical seasons of 2004 and 2005. A long held theory among locals is that the channelization of the Kissimmee River, completed in 1971, has resulted in lower lake levels throughout the southern Lake Wales Ridge. The Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project converted 103 miles of meandering river prone to flooding its 48,000 acres of associated wetlands to a 56-mile long flood control canal. Since 1971, lake levels for several similar lakes on the southern Lake Wales ridge have been depressed from 0.1’ to 5.6’ on average compared with the period before 1971; in this rather crude analysis, lakes further north had the greatest deficit.

This presentation compares average annual lake fluctuations for 1940s-1970 with 1971- 2006 for Crooked Lake and Lake Arbuckle in Polk County and lakes Lotela, Jackson, June-in- Winter and Placid in Highlands County. It also compares regional stream flows and regional rainfall records for these same time periods which bracket the channelization of the Kissimmee River. This analysis also considers factors including local hydrologic changes, and hemispheric hydrologic cycles that have influenced the hydrology of southern Lake Wales Ridge Lakes over the past 60 years. Whatever the cause water chemistry data for these lakes show that lakes with greater fluctuation ranges have healthier water quality.

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NOTES

Session 1 – Page 4

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