A new chapter in the decades-long request to restore Lake Apopka will begin next spring, with a $4.8 million dredging project.
To date, about $187 million has been spent trying to correct the environmental abuse heaped upon Florida’s fourth largest lake and once one of the nation’s best bass fisheries.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) are teaming up on this effort, which will suck about an estimated 50 acres of muck from areas near Newton Park in Winter Garden and Magnolia Park near Apopka.
Along with enhancing water clarity and quality, the dredging should improve navigation in the 30,000-acre lake.
“The state can’t afford to dredge the whole lake, but removing patches of the puddinglike black goo from strategic areas could aid fish populations and accelerate the lake’s recovery by helping eel grass and other native plants re-establish roots on the lake bottom,” said Tom Champeau, FWC fisheries chief.
Improving access is important too, added David Walker, SJRWMD’s basin program manager. “The idea is to carve some sort of channel that gives access out to the lake, even in low water conditions, and clean out the muck,” he said.
As of right now, the muck will be removed in a couple of ways. A much more expensive approach, termed “experimental,” involves quickly drying the muck and stuffing it into “geotubes.” The latter then will be anchored around the dredged area, in hopes of preventing fluid muck from surging back into the cleaned area.
Additionally, muck will be pumped out via pipeline and spread on public land, where it will dry into an organic cap, intended to protect wildlife from pesticides in the dirt below it.
Lake Apopka declined and its bass fishery crashed because of nutrient overload from citrus processors, sewage plants, and runoff from “muck” farms. Shoreline development aided its demise, as filtering wetlands were destroyed. Fed by nitrogen and phosphorus, algae blooms turned its dying waters pea green.
(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)