PINELLAS COUNTY, FL — Pinellas County has begun the most important phase of the Lake Seminole Restoration Project. A county contractor has started a dredge operation that will remove about 900,000 cubic yards of organic sediment from the lake, aiming to bring it to its healthiest state in decades.
Lake Seminole is the county’s second-largest freshwater lake, a critical part of the watershed and a major amenity for recreation and nature enjoyment. But accumulated sediment has contributed to persistent water quality problems and habitat degradation. The three-year dredging operation will remove about 54 tons of phosphorus and 311 tons of nitrogen, reducing nitrogen loads by 56 percent in Long Bayou and Boca Ciega Bay.
“This project will reduce the available nutrients for algae and vegetation growth,” said Pinellas County senior environmental specialist Rob Burnes. “We’ll have cleaner water, a healthier lake bottom, more fish, fewer invasive plants, more native plants and a much nicer lake.”
The Lake Seminole Restoration Project is part of the Lake Seminole Watershed Management Plan, which sets forth best practices that have been improving water quality in the lake for several years. One of the most important contributions thus far has been the addition of four “Alum” stations that reduce nutrient inputs into the lake by capturing urban stormwater before it enters the lake and treating it with aluminum sulphate.
Now, Clearwater-based Gator Dredging is using a hydraulic dredge to remove the muck from the bottom of the lake. It’s transported to a Dredge Material Management Area (DMMA) located on county-owned land between Lake Seminole Park and the Cross Bayou Little League Fields. Eventually, the DMMA will form a berm that can be used for park land or ball fields.
The $19 million project is scheduled for completion in early 2023. It’s funded by Penny for Pinellas taxes, the Southwest Water Management District, a legislative appropriation and the RESTORE Act.