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Residents leery of plan for Lake Carroll

Questions about the cleanliness of three small lakes surface when engineers propose pumping their overflows into Lake Carroll.

By TIM GRANT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2000


CARROLLWOOD -- Drought has dropped Lake Carroll below normal levels, but homeowners in Original Carrollwood are more concerned about a plan to divert stormwater into the lake by this fall.

County engineers want to pump excess water into Lake Carroll to help curb the pollution that affected the lake when three other lakes in Forest Hills have flooded after heavy rains.

In past years, overflow from lakes Jennette, Dorothy and Fleur de Lis has washed motor oil, pesticides and septic waste into Lake Carroll. Officials say they believe pumping can reduce flooding and lake contamination.

"Without the pumps, polluted water could be allowed to flow into Lake Carroll and flood area homes adjacent to the three lakes," said Elie Araj, an engineer in the county's stormwater management section.

But residents at a Wednesday meeting on the issue are leery about the idea of introducing water of unknown quality from other lakes into Lake Carroll.

"The residents were all disappointed that there was no data available on the cleanliness of the three lakes in question," said Elizabeth Hapner, president of the Original Carrollwood Civic Association. "They felt like the county is putting the cart before the horse.

"The consensus I got was that people are not totally opposed to the idea, but there are some concessions they'll push for such as baffle boxes (filters) for the new and existing pipes that drain into Lake Carroll."

Under those circumstances, Hapner said, residents think Lake Carroll could be improved, but it may take some more convincing before they are fully at ease with the plan.

The county is still in the permitting process, and the start of work is still six to nine months away.

"People are uncomfortable with the project perhaps because in the past, flood control projects didn't take water quality into consideration," said Jack Merriam, a county environmental scientist.

"For the first time, we are doing watershed planning that looks at the various aspects of water management, flood control, water quality and habitat protection."

Although Lake Carroll is healthy, phosphorus and algae have steadily increased while the clarity of the water has steadily declined since 1995, said county environmental scientist Carlos Fernandes.

"What we see is a trend which warns us that something has changed with Lake Carroll," Fernandes said.

Controlling the flow of water could be the best way to reverse the negative direction, he said.

If residents reject the project, engineers suspect Forest Hills will continue to flood, the three upstream lakes will keep overflowing into Lake Carroll and ultimately, the county will find another use for the $350,000 earmarked for the pumping work.

At 216 acres, Lake Carroll is significantly larger than the other three lakes, which are only 2 to 6 acres each.

Engineers say a relatively small amount of water would actually be pumped over a long period of time. And pumping would only occur when water levels on the three lakes rise 2 feet above their seasonal high.

"If you measured the amount of water to be pumped from the lakes, it's less than 100th of an inch in Lake Carroll," Araj said. "You can't even hold your fingers that far apart."

But pumping alone won't solve the whole problem of nutrients loading Lake Carroll.

Another major source of nutrients is the 696-acre watershed itself, and Araj thinks the county should work with residents to reduce fertilizers and pesticides at homes and businesses, and to harvest unwanted lake vegetation instead of spraying it with herbicide.

-- To reach Tim Grant, call 226-3471, or e-mail him at grant@sptimes.com.

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