New dredging project is underway at Lake Apopka

A crew prepares equipment on a barge used for the sump dredging project.

A crew prepares equipment on a barge used for the sump dredging project.

MAITLAND, Fla., Dec. 19, 2017 — The St. Johns River Water Management District has started work on a sump dredge project designed to help improve water quality at Lake Apopka. The project is not expected to impede navigation on the canal or lake.

“Our focus remains centered on projects that bring us closer to our goal of restoring the lake’s ecosystem,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Improved water quality now provides conditions that are allowing native submerged plants to recolonize the lake’s bottom. As these plants expand, they provide the habitat critical to the recovery of the lake’s historic bass fishery.”

The project is unique from previous dredging projects because it will create a sump, or a depression, at the lake-bottom to collect nutrient-laden sediment near the mouth of the Apopka-Beauclair Canal. Collecting and eventually removing the material is expected to reduce turbidity in Lake Apopka and help improve water quality.

A barge stationed near the canal will use floating pipe to transport material collected from the lake’s bottom to an area west of the canal, where it will raise subsided marsh and bury residual pesticides found on the formerly farmed land. Additionally, if needed, water from the dredging will be routed through the district’s marsh flow-way, a constructed wetland, for additional nutrient removal.

High water levels from Hurricane Irma originally delayed the start of the project, which is expected to run through early 2019 and collect about 500,000 cubic yards of nutrient-laden material.