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December 18, 2006

The Southwest Florida Management District recently signed an agreement with Polk County to move forward on a project that will help reduce flooding associated with heavy rains in the Saddlebag Lake Watershed.

The Saddlebag Lake Watershed spans approximately 9.5 miles in southeast Polk County. Water levels in Saddlebag Lake and Lake Thomas rose dramatically after three hurricanes and four years of above average rainfall. More than 300 homes in the area were flooded and roads and a wastewater treatment plant were also impacted, which jeopardized several hundred more homes. Polk County conducted emergency pumping to relieve the flooding at that time and decided to investigate a long-term solution.

The project involves improving the stormwater infrastructure in the area, which includes constructing outfall structures and conveyance systems consisting of pipes and ditches between Saddlebag Lake and the nearby Lake Thomas, Parks Lake, Cypress Lake, Little Gum Lake, Big Gum Lake and Stock Lake. This system will allow better control of the lake levels, which will lead to a reduction in high water levels and the length of time water levels remain high within Saddlebag Lake and Lake Thomas.

Before any work can be done, the county must secure easements to construct this stormwater system.

This project is estimated to cost up to $2.1 million. Funding will be divided evenly between the District’s Peace River Basin Board and Polk County. Half of the funding has been budgeted for fiscal year 2007 with the other half being budgeted for future fiscal years. Future funding is contingent upon Basin Board approval.

The project is expected to be complete by December 2011.

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