Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Immokalee's Lake Trafford Restoration Complete

IMMOKALEE, FL -- In a significant step to improve water quality in Southwest Florida and protect an economic resource, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and its partners recently marked the completion of the effort to restore Lake Trafford.

Lake Trafford is a shallow, 1,600-acre lake, marking the headwaters of the Corkscrew Swamp and the Imperial and Cocohatchee River watersheds, along with the Camp Keais Strand and Panther Preserve watershed that drains into the Ten Thousand Islands. Lake Trafford is the largest lake south of Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, serving as an important ecotourism resource for recreational boating and fishing.

With an investment of approximately $21.4 million, the District achieved a host of restoration goals, including:

  • Removing 3 feet of muck from the lake bottom during 2004 - 2007
  • Removing 2 feet of muck from the near shore areas during 2009 - 2010
  • Restoring native fisheries
  • Developing a Watershed Protection Plan to reduce nutrients

Restoration of Lake Trafford will not end with the completion of dredging. Other plans to maintain the health of the lake include:

Re-establishing native submerged aquatic vegetation, such as Vallisneria, through littoral plantings
Monitoring the long-term health of the lake using water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen), environmental indicators and the recovery of native fish communities
Promoting additional studies to develop best management practices to control nutrient runoff and minimize growth of invasive aquatic vegetation

At one time, the lake was sand bottomed. However, nutrient runoff in the watershed resulted in a shift from native aquatic vegetation to dense mats of hydrilla, an invasive exotic plant. The hydrilla has been controlled using herbicides, however, dead plant material accumulated on the bottom of the lake, releasing nutrients, triggering algal blooms and impacting prime habitat for native fish species.

The District began the first phase of dredging Lake Trafford in 2004, with a focus on its center, completing the project two years later. A second muck-removal effort began in November 2006 for the near shore area and, after being placed on hold because of drought conditions in 2007, was completed recently.

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