The summer’s rapid bloom and explosive growth of Illinois pondweed in Lake June-In-Winter is a symptom of a bigger problem, according to experts. That bigger problem is an increase in nutrients in the water that feeds the plants.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Regional Director Chris Wynn and biologist Kelle Sullivan said at a recent public hearing herbicide treatments are working — and the addition of sterile carp could help even more.
But, they caution, their efforts amount to no more than a “Band-Aid” for the real cause. Nutrients from stormwater run-off and lawn fertilizers that leech into the lake are the real culprits.
The region experienced record-setting rainfall during the summer. That above average rain flushed nutrients into the lake, setting off the bloom.
Highlands County Lakes Manager Clell Ford agreed with the FWC experts. He said the two biggest culprits are a poorly designed stormwater drain that dumps thousands upon thousands of gallons of water from U.S. 27 into the cove of Lake June; and homeowners who over-fertilize to achieve lush, green lawns on the water’s edge.
The pondweed is being killed with herbicides and grass carp will nibble away at other vegetation. But those same weeds are needed to clean the unwanted nutrients from the lake. That is the core of the problem; too many nutrients spark more weeds. Without the plants, nutrient levels continue to rise.
The experts were in agreement that a lake association similar to the Friends of Lake Istokpoga would be a great tool in managing Lake June — one of the premier recreational lakes in all of Highlands County.
Friends of Lake Istokpoga keep a watchful eye on their lake. The group meets regularly to discuss issues such as stormwater run-off and arrives at a consensus that is passed along to FWC staff. The result is a unified voice that is more powerful than dozens of individual opinions, complaints and suggestions.
Decades ago, when Lake June was in the midst of a hydrilla invasion, a group was formed as Lake June Lake Association. That group worked closely with FWC officials and the problem was eradicated. Several past members of that now-inactive group said at the public hearing they are willing to revive the organization.
We applaud the suggestion and encourage those with an interest in Lake June — whether as property owners or recreational users — to band together to work toward a long term solution.