By Herb Schuchman
Co-chair, Lake Committee
IslandWalk of Naples
You may recall the community of IslandWalk of Naples has been very active in studying and developing an understanding about the aging of the stormwater retention pond systems that exist throughout Florida and in many other states.
The greatest number of these systems was built during the past 20 or so years when Florida started going through a major increase in building, especially of large communities.
The need to control stormwater increased because of the large amounts of areas that no longer just consisted of wild grass and plants. New roads, driveways, houses, landscaping, sidewalks and so on all deprived nature from being able to control stormwater as it had been able to do in the past. Much of the water that was naturally absorbed previously now falls on impervious surfaces making that water difficult to control. The development of these stormwater retention pond systems was expected to overcome this problem.
Unfortunately the new systems were built without the experience of truly understanding the future ramifications to these ponds and their effects on the future costs of maintenance, their potential effects on property values and yes their potential effects on the Gulf itself.
In previous guest commentaries I have written about our experiences here in IslandWalk, our studies and our attempts to make other communities aware of these problems associated with the aging of these systems. I wrote that some of the problems we were experiencing included an increase in algae blooms each year, the loss of large fish populations, an increase in nitrate and phosphate levels, a need to increase the use of chemicals each year to control algae blooms and hydrilla, and a severe decline in the number of visiting shorebirds.
I have also written of some of the things we at IslandWalk have done and are doing to maximize the life of these systems, improve the conditions of our ponds, and buy time to prepare for the dredging that all of these systems will eventually need. The future costs to our communities and to our environment are very high and time is needed to prepare.
I also previously reported on the results we had obtained within six months after installing an aeration system and making many other changes in our treatment of these ponds. I was happy to report that the clarity of the water had increased significantly, the oxygen saturation levels were ideal, we had a significant increase in the numbers of large schools of baby bass, our algae blooms had decreased significantly, we had minimum hydrilla, the shorebirds have returned in numbers never seen here before and our residents are continually talking about how beautiful our ponds look.
Now, one year after our changes were instituted our results continue to improve. I am happy to report that we have reduced our use of copper to control algae by 75 percent. We continue to make changes to help prevent erosion, to increase healthy fish populations and to help maintain and improve the beauty of IslandWalk.
IslandWalk has felt a responsibility to share our knowledge and therefore started an Outreach Program offering our help free to any community requesting it. To date we have met with over 30 communities and spoken to many more.
We feel so strongly that this information must be shared that IslandWalk has, at our own expense, produced a DVD with the full cooperation of the South Florida Water Management District. This DVD is 23 minutes long. The DVD explains the problems and what can and must be done. A senior regulatory professional of the South Florida Water Management District and three members of the IslandWalk Lake Committee present information about these systems and what can be done to maximize their life and health. IslandWalk tells in detail what we have done and what we have accomplished in just nine months.
Our results are outstanding and we are happy to share this free of charge to any community that requests it. Your community may request a copy by e-mailing me at email@example.com.
All we ask in return is that you share with us and the other communities any information you might have so that we can all benefit.