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Guest Column

A city gem shines again

By EARNEST WILLIAMS
Published February 28, 2007


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For many years, Lake Maggiore was a great place to fish and enjoy water-related recreational activities.

Unfortunately, for many children in Florida, chances to spend the day enjoying places like Lake Maggiore are growing limited, especially in our urban communities. That's because of the damage stormwater runoff has inflicted on numerous waterways throughout Florida. Up until recently, Lake Maggiore was one such lake.

Lake Maggiore, like many other bodies of water around the state, was damaged by fertilizers, pesticides, oils and dirt from our roads washing into the lake during rains. The resulting high bacteria levels caused many of these water bodies to be closed to boaters, fishermen and swimmers. Overgrown with nuisance vegetation and teeming with reptiles and rodents, too many of these water bodies, including Lake Maggiore, have become community eyesores.

During the 1990s, the city of St. Petersburg committed to turning Lake Maggiore back into the community gem it once was. The city, with support from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, looked for ways to improve water quality.

We constructed stormwater treatment facilities and replaced an outfall canal separating Lake Maggiore from Salt Creek. We removed invasive plants. But we also knew that to truly restore the lake, we'd have to remove years and years of muck on the lake bottom. Within the physical constraints of the urban environment, traditional dredging technologies simply wouldn't work. We didn't have space in the city to dispose of wet, dredged muck. And traditional technologies also would force us to draw down the lake - a plan that would leave the community without the use of Lake Maggiore.

Based on a competitive process, we selected a firm that provided innovative dredging technology that met our needs. Jahna Dredging was able to couple traditional dredging technology used in mining with a rapid sediment de-watering process. This meant the lake would not be drawn down and that the community would still be able to use Lake Maggiore while the dredging was taking place. It also meant the sediment pulled from the lake could be "dewatered," and dry sediment could be more easily transported for use elsewhere.

After two years of dredging, Jahna had removed 1.3-million cubic yards of sediment from the lake's bottom.

Today, because of this restoration project, visitors to Lake Maggiore can once again experience the joy that can only come from fishing from the lake shore and enjoying time with family or alone. Wading birds, alligators, otters and even white pelicans have found their way back to Lake Maggiore, after having been forced to abandon it when conditions were too toxic.

Earnest Williams is a St. Petersburg City Council member.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:29:09]


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