SEBRING - Residents who live near Little Lake Jackson and the Erin Park area are hoping in the near future to have the ability year around to have a navigable channel between Little Lake Jackson and Lake Jackson, one resident said Monday.
Florida Department of Transportation officials announced last week during a meeting of the local legislative delegation that within the next two years, some boaters will be able to navigate a channel leading from Little Lake Jackson to Lake Jackson.
Zachary Burch, government affairs liaison with the Florida Department of Transportation, announced the project that would allow for that was approved.
"I'm encouraged we're moving forward," State Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.
Grimsley said the Florida Department of Transportation is doing what was requested of it during a meeting of officials and residents last year.
George Atkinson, a board member of Friends of Erin Park Canals and Little Lake Jackson, which was seeking the project, said he's happy with the announcement.
"We think it's terrific," Atkinson said, adding that the problems with the channel began in 1995 when the Florida Department of Transportation widened U.S. 27 and built a new bridge in that area. The hurricane of 2004 resulted in sandbars that worsened the situation, he added.
Since then, he said, the channel between the two lakes is un-navigable when the water is low in the lakes. The Corps project would fix that, he added.
The project would involve dredging and removing sand from the channel near a U.S. 27 bridge, Burch said.
Burch said even with the removal of the sand only boats of a certain size will be able to make it through.
"Boats that were able to travel there before will be able to do it again," he said.
The project also will involve making sure the existing bridge is safe.
Burch said design work for the project will be completed by July 1, 2014, during this fiscal year. The project itself will be completed the next fiscal year.
The estimated cost of the project, he said, is about $350,000.
But, Atkinson said, that himself and probably most of the other 1,700 property owners in the area hope or likely hope the project will move faster.
He said the group last year wanted to do the project, but the FDOT refused to grant a permit. Atkinson said a letter sent to Gov. Rick Scott may have resulted in FDOT moving forward with the project.