MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you haven’t been to the Everglades in a while, you may be surprised to find that it’s filled with water.
The recent rainfall has sent Lake Okeechobee up by three feet and nearly two feet of rain fell in some parts of the Everglades last month, erasing a bone-dry summer.
”It was pretty low,” explained fisherman Nathaniel Knowles. “Low enough to see the bottom. With all the rain, it’s a lot higher.”
Marshall Jones from Mack’s Fish Camp grew up in the Everglades and leads eco tours. He told CBS4’s Ted Scouten the area in Northern Broward should just be a few inches deep, but now, it’s almost at 2 feet Futher south, it should be about two and half feet deep. But we’re way past that now.
“We went from no water, from a very severe droughts, one of the worst droughts in recorded history here in the Everglades, to one of the most major water events we’ve had in over a decade,” said Jones
All that water causes trouble for the furry creatures of the Everglades, like deer. They’re running out of room. Many of the islands where they would live are under water.
“This island would normally be elevated between 6 and 8 inches above the water plane,” said Jones as he waded around the island, “and as you can see it’s clearly under water. “
Wildlife officials are closing off much of the glades north of alligator alley. Beginning Monday, motorized vehicles will not be allowed in the Water Conservation Area 3A North portion and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.
That should give land animal free reign of any dry spots or levees, getting them out of their water logged homes.
“They need dry ground especially for their foraging and their bedding,” said Jones. “This island may be a good level for foraging and drinking, it’s not ideal for bedding. “
One of the upsides of having all this excess water in the Everglades right now is that we’re going into dry season, the hope now is that all this extra water will sustain the Everglades, until we hit rainy season in May.
South Florida water managers have lifted emergency watering restrictions that were placed in effect last March, meaning homeowners can now water lawns more frequently than twice a week if not prohibited by local restrictions.
In addition, commercial water users are getting a break, with the end of 15percent usage cuts for golf courses and 45 percent cuts for farmers.
That doesn’t mean no restrictions are in place.
Both Miami-Dade and Broward have legislated their own local year-round restrictions, allowing homeowners to water only twice a week in an effort to promote water saving.
Some communities in Palm Beach County,. where the South Florida drought was most severe, have restrictions that exceed the ones imposed by the South Florida Water Management District. It is up to those communities to ease restrictions.
South Florida has entered it’s traditional annual dry season, with an end to regular thunderstorms and the approaching end of the Atlantic hurricane season.