Week 8: Lake Apopka in the 1980s

Last week I discussed the 1970s and how Lake Apopka was seemingly passed over by the wave of environmentalism that swept Florida at that time. This wasn’t totally accurate: the Clean Water Act and various other measures did, in fact, impact the lake. As a result of these water protections, Winter Garden’s citrus processing industry and sewage treatment plant began taking serious steps to reduce their discharge into the lake.. By the end of the decade both of these sources of pollution would have greatly improved their treatment processes. The muck farms, though, were overlooked by these protections because their discharge was deemed a “non-point” source. Non-point pollution would become a more visible topic in the late 80s and early 90s.

The 1980s saw a lot of major plans beginning for Lake Apopka. Ironically, this period is not one well-represented in the FOLA archives. Due to this, piecing together a narrative for this period is going to require a bit more research than previous weeks. I want to spend this week, then, giving a brief overview of some of the major events.

The decade seemed to start hopefully, with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission even stocking the lake with over 150,000 bass fingerlings, in an effort to restore sports fishing.


But this wouldn’t work. In fact, the next year, the FOLA archives show another major fish kill occurring. Described by Harold Moody as “massive”, one report estimates the kill at some 18 million dead fish.

The middle of the decade, though, would see the passing of the Lake Apopka Restoration Act. This legislation established the Lake Apopka Restoration Council and Technical Committee. The archives holds a three-page Statement of Intent by the Council. I’ll go through this in more detail next week. What’s most important is the LARC’s undertaking major studies to develop a comprehensive plan for the lake, and one that would integrate the Water Management District.

Several pilot projects were launched by the LARC in ’86, and “nutrient budgets” are being developed at this time as well. The archives contain several examples of these kinds of “budgets” – we’ll go through one in the future.

In 1987 SWIM is passed: the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act. SWIM would help put Lake Apopka back at the center of Florida’s environmental concerns, naming it as one of seven priority bodies of water to be restored.

In 88′, the first flow-way demonstrations are begun. The flowway will become a massive “filter” for the lake, cycling the entire volume of the lake twice per year.

And finally, in 1989, the St Johns River Management District signs a consent order with the Zellwood Drainage District. This agreement would set the guidelines for Zellwood’s water usage. This agreement would prove highly controversial, eventually spurring concerned citizens to form what will become the Friends of Lake Apopka. This also deserves more detail, in a future update. Stay tuned.

Week 8: Lake Apopka in the 1980s

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