Banana Lake, which flows to Lake Hancock was "Restored" in 1992 at an expense of $2 million through deepening and it is still hyper eutrophic showing higher Trophic State Index numbers than Lake Hancock. It is blue green algae dominated. The problem with Banana Lake is that deepening in 1992 did not impact the nutrient inflow to the lake. Even though city waste effluent was diverted and the nutrient inflow reduced by 90%, the remaining 10% of the original nutrient load has been enough to maintain a blue green hyper eutrophic condition. All of this begs the question, "what are the nutrient loads coming to Lake Hancock?" No one knows! Are they being monitored? Not currently!
Nitorgen to Phosphorus ratios are low. This means that nitrogen is likely to be the limiting nutrient for growth in Lake Hancock. Blue green algae fixes its own nitrogen when it has to. The exposure of phosphate ore is expected to increase phosphorus concentrations in the water column in Lake Hancock both during and after mining. Increased Phosphorus concentrations will drive nitrogen to phosphorus ratios even lower favoring blue green algae. The blue green algae are truly bad actors! There may be solutions even to this problem, but no one is talking.
If Ecosystem Team Permitting is implemented, we can expect the Bureau of Mine Reclamation (BMR) to dominate the process as the permitting agency. The BMR does not have to heed input from the wetlands specialists within DEP nor does it have a history of implementing the recommendations of the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission or the concerns of the Water Management District. It has never heeded the concerns of the public or other outsiders. Participation for "restoration" under these conditions can be expected to be minimal. The BMR will tout the wonderful work it has done, but keep in mind they measure results against their own regulations and one needs only to fly over mined counties to judge those standards!
We, the Sierra Club, have no problem with the issuance of a lease for the purposes advertised in public meetings in the Polk County area to evaluate the feasibility of restoration of Lake Hancock as an adjunct to the mining of the lake and/or other alternatives such as drawdowns which have been proposed by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FF&WCC) in the past. Our concern is that the lease does not contain conditions which would assure the state of benefits claimed by the Bureau of Mine Reclamation. Restoration and reclamation are significantly different. We can reclaim lands to some form after mining but the soil and hydroperiods are forever changed and the chemical composition of water both contained and released is changed for the foreseeable future. Despite the seductive publicity regarding phosphate reclamation and the few demonstrations the industry and the Bureau of Mine Reclamation hail, reclaimed lands fail to look or function like the natural systems they replace. (Keep in mind that the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, a state agency specializing in phosphate mining and reclamation with emphasis on wetlands, has been unable to establish criteria for successful reclamation despite its best extensive and expensive efforts.)
Our primary concern is the ability of appropriate government agencies to participate as equals in restoration proposal development and decision making processes and strategy. The Ecosystem Management Team Permitting process will fail the public unless active and equal participation of the best talent available is brought to the decision making and development of restoration options for this public waterway. We can't afford failure for the lake and river that supplies potable water to downstream users and provides critical habitat in the Bone Valley Ecosystem.
Since April of this year, we have discussed mining options and ongoing water quality and habitat enhancement plans with several state agencies. Because of these discussions we have increasing concerns that the coordination between the agencies is not occurring as it should be to maximize the restoration achieved for the tax dollars spent.
Major concerns are briefly described here:
Based on all the information accumulated thus far, we believe that birds, fishes and many other wetland creatures, including mammals, that inhabit our subtropical natural systems will benefit from the "restoration" of Lake Hancock. Further, with reasonable review of available data and a thoughtful ecosystem management and planning approach to restoration, these benefits can occur without a major disruption of existing wildlife and fisheries. We expect water quality and wildlife habitat will improve and water quantity will remain rain dependent.
littoral zone - between the high water mark and the open water - the "grassy" area between shore and open water.
eutrophic - Over enriched - usually with colored water from green or brown algae blooms and extensive areas of macrophytes (plants) exhibiting low dissolved oxygen and large but mostly undesirable fish populations.back to the article
trophic state index (TSI) values range from 1 to 110 or more. Generally, the lower the value the clearer the water. Lakes with high values (60 or more) usually have green water due to chlorophyl a plant pigment contained in the microscopic algae that floats near the surface of lakes. Lakes with higher TSI values support greater numbers of fish than lakes with low values. Water quality improvement projects of the inflows and acquisition of lands surrounding the lake could prove more cost effective than the proposed mining of the lake. Additionally, some professionals have suggested removing the control structure from the Saddle Creek outfall and "restore the lake to a wide spot in the river" a condition more natural in Lake Hancock case than deepening. The experience in the Kissimmee River restoration, using restored water flow to "blow: detritus out of silted in oxbows, shows that detritus washed down the river was insignificant to water quality in fact the detritus was never found! back to the article
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Sierra Club Florida