Dredging to Restore Lagoon
Beginning in late September, two parking areas on the Highlands Campus will be closed for at least a month while a dredging project cleans the Panther Cove Park lagoon. The inconvenience will pay off by putting an end to the ugly “green slime” that lacquers the surface of the lagoon and to the toxic blue-green algae blooms that mark their presence by emitting a rancid, swampy odor.
The project’s two geotextile collection tubes will be placed in Parking Lot F, causing it to be closed and blocked off with a fence and sandbags. This lot serves the Joseph E. Johnston Student Center (J), the Cosmetology Clinic (K), and the Automotive Service Technology classrooms (M). Parking on the south side of Building I will be reserved exclusively for deliveries to the cafeteria. Although dredging will end by Oct.31, these parking areas will remain closed until the sediment dries and is removed from Parking Lot F.
From Sept. 30 through Oct. 31, C & M Dredging, of Leesburg, will use a cutter dredge to remove vegetation and sediment in an area beginning at the shoreline in front of the Joseph E. Johnston Student Center and extending 180-feet to Lake Glenada. The sediment will be pumped into Parking Lot F through hoses running under the sidewalk and into the two 34 1/2-foot wide by 80-foot long geotextile containment tubes. Approximately 10 million gallons of filtered lake water will flow through the porous tubes and into storm water drainage pipes that run from Parking Lot F to an existing wastewater retention area along College Drive. Once this process is completed, the geotextile containers will be opened, and the dried sediment will be transported to a location east of the Public Service Academy. The lagoon will also be restored to a depth of 6 feet with the sides being sloped to produce 1 foot of depth every 3 feet to avoid a dramatic drop-off.
The dredging schedule allows for 15 days of pumping with an extra 15 days factored in to accommodate the possibility of inclement weather. Pumping will take place from one-half hour after sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, resulting in steady noise comparable to that of a riding lawnmower as well as some odor as sediment is removed.
No sidewalks will be closed. Panther Cove Park will also remain open to those who wish to use it while dredging takes place.
Keith Loweke, director of safety and security, said the lagoon is long overdue for dredging, as it has not been cleaned of sediment, silt, and invasive weeds in nearly 45 years. Over the decades, nearly 4 feet of muck has piled up, reducing the lagoon from its original depth of 6 feet to 2 1/2 feet, causing water quality to deteriorate, and creating the ideal conditions for blue-green algae blooms.
Since early 2012, Glenn Little, vice president for administrative services, and Loweke have worked to bring the dredging project to fruition. A major challenge was obtaining permitting from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers.
“This project will improve the water quality in the lagoon,” Loweke said. “Enhanced water quality will bring more wildlife into the area. It will reduce the toxins created by blue-green algae blooms and the unpleasant odor from stagnant water. Ultimately, it will give students another place to enjoy on our beautiful campus.”