Florida Realtors: Lake O Releases Are Hurting Tourism, Second Home Sales

Aug 22, 2013

Credit Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

The Florida Realtors Association is raising concerns about water releases from Lake Okeechobee, which they say are degrading water quality east and west of the lake and now hurting sales in Southwest and Southeast Florida.

John Sebree, the VP of Public Policy for Florida Realtors, said he’s been hearing from industry leaders in Lee and Collier counties, as well as east of the lake in Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

“We are hearing from them about just how incredibly different it is to see their areas looking this way-- you know, when they are used to pristine water and they are used to seeing to the bottom and seeing fish floating by. But instead, they are seeing dirty water,” he said.

Sebree said the coastal areas are hotspots for tourism and seasonal visitors, but unsightly water is keeping visitors away.

“The impacts of that are causing people to either cancel sales or also change their plans and not spend time on the beaches or in the resorts that their families have been going back to for many generations,” Sebree said.

Sebree said resorts and second home sales in Florida are big business—and have helped the state through its real estate crisis. He said Sanibel realtors have voiced the most concern about a drop in visitors.

Sebree said Florida Realtors are partnering with environmental groups such as the Everglades Foundation to work on water quality issues. He also said this year’s water releases, which were prompted by a particular wet rainy season, comes on the heels of two strong years for tourism and home sales in Florida.