More of the same and close to home

newnans lake Acosta In: More of the same and close to home | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Newnans Lake. Photo by Mariangel Acosta, used by permission from her and WUFT.

We spoke with engineer Shane Williams who added that some of the problem likely comes from septics around the lake.  Some blueberry farms and silviculture are also nearby.  Additionally, Florida has an abundance of phosphorus naturally present.

Read the complete article here at WUFT.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

‘It’s Green’: Progress Slows As Newnans Lake Cleanup Efforts Continue

By Mariangel Acosta

“It’s green, and the fish that come out of it have sores on them. You get the water on you, and you start itching. It’s not a good thing.”

Tucked beneath Spanish-moss draped canopies and eight-foot-tall elephant ears, Mike Carter and his wife, Monica, have lived in their home behind the troubled Newnans Lake for over two decades. Their boat rental business, Kate’s Fish Camp, is located on the lake’s south creek. Closed to the general public in March over concerns with sanitizing rental equipment due to COVID-19, the camp is only open to visitors in self-contained recreational vehicles.

“We don’t depend much on the lake anymore because of its poor quality,” said Mike Carter. To make up for lost income from Kate’s, Monica Carter pours her newly free time into her homemade organic soaps.

The nearly 6,000-acre shallow body of fresh water behind the Carters’ home, also known for its earlier Seminole name as Lake Pithlachocco, or the “place of longboats,” faces a cyclical threat in its quest for clear water – excessive nutrient pollution.

Nearing four years after Alachua County commissioners gave the go-ahead for the Newnans Lake Improvement Initiative in an expansive effort to improve the impaired lake’s water quality, water restoration efforts remain underway.

In 2016, the project was funded by a state grant administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water Restoration Assistance. The Orange Creek Basin Management Action Plan calls for a 74% reduction in nitrogen and a 59% reduction in phosphorus for the lake to meet clean-up goals.

Overwhelming nitrogen and phosphorus sources coupled with warm weather and rainy seasons can be detrimental to the waters, said Shane Williams, Environmental Protection Dept. stormwater engineer and project manager.

Williams stated plans for the second half of phase two, set initially to break ground in March 2018, are finally underway and planned for later this month. The second stage of phase two involves the construction of two reactive weirs, a small dam that filters water, to divert the baseflow from Little Hatchet Creek in efforts to remove phosphorus, he said.

According to Williams, the weirs’ construction should be completed within two weeks from the start date. He cites issues obtaining approval for building permits through the Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers as a barrier that contributed to the extensive delay.

“Moving forward, plans for phase three would involve looking at the feasibility of different treatment options with some of the internal nutrient recycling, whether it’s a treatment wetland or the rehydration of Gum Root Swamp,” said Williams.

But Mike and Monica Carter are still doubtful of the county’s efforts.

“Without real intervention like dredging, the sediment returns within a season,” said Mike Carter.

“This is some of the nastiest water in the state going into our aquifer where our drinking water is. And they do very little to deter it,” he said.

Despite project milestones achieved to protect the impaired water body, Newnans Lake has a long way to go before it could be officially declared healthy.

discarded boat In: More of the same and close to home | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
A boat filled with lake water sits discarded behind Kate’s Fish Camp. (Mariangel Acosta/WUFT News)

“Whether you use the lake for fishing or recreation, it’s an asset to all county citizens. We’re all affected by this,” said Williams….


1 Comment

  1. FDEP has created Newnans Lake and they have it just the way they like it, keeping the interest in the lake low while improving the water flowing out, while they fight against any lasting improvements to the lake itself. It is a nitrogen trap to only improve the water for that instant aquifer recharge downstream at Alachua Sink that feeds the unbridled growth, in places, such as The Villages. This is some of the dirtiest surface water in the country and every bit of it goes into one of 2 sinkholes downstream delivering tones of nitrates and tons of phosphates to the aquifer every single day, day after day year after year. Only the top 10% of the organic sediment is reactionary, the rest is dormant. Removing the top 20% of the organic goo would improve the water quality flowing out of Newnans by at least 80%. Lowering the sill at the mouth of Prairie Creek to its historical level could do wonders for the water quality in the lake.

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