Pinellas County embarks on $19-million project to pull muck out of Lake Seminole
SEMINOLE — Environmental experts, always concerned about the water quality of Lake Seminole, are assessing how much Hurricane Irma may have stirred up the nearly 1 million cubic yards of muck that lay on the bottom.
"There are so many nutrients stored in those sediments," Pinellas County Environmental Management division director Kelli Levy said. "Every time they get stirred up, it's like releasing fertilizer into the water column that speeds up algal bloom."
This latest concern regarding the 684-acre lake comes two months after Pinellas County commissioners agreed to move forward on a $19 million dredging project, half of which will be paid for by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, that will remove 416 tons of nitrogen and 77 tons of phosphorus from the lake.
While design and permitting are under way, actual dredging is not expected to begin until next August and will not be completed until 2023.
County Commission chairwoman Janet Long, whose history with the lake dates to her tenure as a Seminole City Council member, said she is pleased that a resolution finally is in sight.
"We expect this project will return the lake to a condition where it will support recreational and commercial use,'' Long said.
The county has been wrestling with how to improve the lake's water quality for more than two decades. The seeds of the dilemma were sown in the mid 1940s, when commissioners decided to create a freshwater lake on the arm of Long Bayou that would serve as a source of irrigation for citrus groves as well as for recreation.
"It was doomed from the day it became a lake," Levy said. "We took a saltwater system and converted it into a freshwater system that has no source of water other than rainfall. Basically, we ended up with this big bowl of water sitting on top of muck."