Week 13: 1995

I mentioned last week the publishing by the St Johns Water Management District, in 1994, of a waste load allocation rule that would limit what the Apopka farms could discharge.

The Zellwood Drainage District challenged this rule on various grounds. The fifteen-page petition is in the FOLA archives. The District disputed various aspects of the rule. One charge is that the SJRWMD exceeded its authority in declaring the Lake a “work of the district”, as the lake is not itself a “work”, and bottom of the lake is owned by the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund. (Did I mention the Trustees already? The archives also contain a document giving the history of this fund. In summary, the Trustees Fund was formed to invest in improvements to Florida infrastructure when Florida became a state. The fund handled railroads, bridges, etc., but also, because of its role in drainage projects, was given control of vast amounts of submerged land in the state.)

The other claims involve sections of the rule as being “arbitrary and capricious”, as well as questioning whether, in setting a water quality standard, the SJRWMD exceeded its authority.The scientific reasoning behind the rule was also disputed.

The DUDA farms, also on the north shore, but west of the Zellwood District, initially challenged the waste load rule as well. However, after discussion with the WMD, they voluntarily constructed holding ponds for their waste water, as well as a pipeline that would take their discharge and disperse over land that would help it naturally filter out the phosphorus. After this, they voluntarily dropped their challenge.

FOLA filed to intervene in the petition. Unfortunately, in August 1995, the challenge was upheld, and the rule deemed invalid, as it was agreed the SJRWMD had exceeded its authority in setting water quality standards.

This wasn’t the only thing going on in 1995. Other restoration work included the harvesting of gizzard shad from the lake, continuation of planting aquatic vegetation in the lake’s littoral zone, and studies of alum treatment as a way to reduce phosphorus in the lake. But projects like this would be meaningless if the phosphorus discharge could not be stopped.

One method was something called “upland disposal”. This was another pet project of FOLA’s, and involved disposing of farm discharge into different types of basin that would remove the phosphorus from the discharge. This project received support from Linda Chapin, Orange County Chairman.

So that’s 1995, mostly. Next year will see things really heat up, as the farms decide a buyout is the only way they can “reduce” their phosphorus discharge.

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Week 13: 1995

Week 12: 1992 – 1994

After forming in 1991, FOLA’s first meeting was held in January 1992. 1992, for Lake Apopka, was relatively quiet, compared to the next fear years.

A narrative report by the St Johns River Water Management District, from the archives, gives a thorough outline of much of the restoration activity for 1992:

Completion of a nutrient budget plan, for the next two years. One interesting finding of this plan was evidence that as algae is removed from the flow-way, which I previously discussed, the remaining algae in the lake becomes further enriched in phosphorus, making subsequent algae removal even more efficient in terms of removing nutrients.

A hydrodynamic modeling plan, started in May 1992, to be completed in 1994, per the SWIM plans.

Completion of the “Icthyofaunal Restoration Project”, which found stocking of bullhead carp in Lake Apopka to be generally unsupported, due to high mortality.

Construction of barriers, installed in the lake’s littoral zone. These would hamper wave action, thus protecting shoreline vegetation. In July, planting efforts were begun, using species like giant bullrush, spatterdock, and pondweed.

What was FOLA, then, up to during 1992? One early success of the year was a successful blocking of a proposed bill by Representative Sindler. Though I haven’t located the text of the bill, a letter from FOLA President Jim Thomas to Sindler outlines FOLA’s concerns. Mainly, the bill seems to have aimed at creating a new agency to help restore the lake, and FOLA felt this would be both inefficient and detract resources from the existing plans.

Other, less glamorous activities continued during the year, like fundraising, recruitment, and seeking support from government officials.

The next year, 1993, would see FOLA assisting in a restoration project at Magnolia Park. This park is on the east side of Lake Apopka, and the shoreline there was restored using native vegetation by FOLA and volunteers. Today, Magnolia Park is also one of the trailheads to the North Shore Restoration Area, where the muck farms once were.

1994 is where things get interesting. The SJRWMD published a waste load allocation rule this year, that would set stringent requirements on the amount of nutrient discharge allowed by the farms. This rule would be made public in Fall 1994 and then open to challenge by the affected parties. The farms would challenge this ruling, but the developments on this issue I will have to save for next week.

Another interesting note from 1994: in a position paper published at the end of that year, FOLA states they do not support a farm buyout of the muck farm lands. Evidently this was being discussed. FOLA states that the economic impact would be too major, and simply buying the muck farms won’t prevent discharge from adjacent properties. FOLA would eventually come to support the farm buyouts. More on this later.

Week 12: 1992 – 1994

Week 11: The Friends of Lake Apopka

This week, I’d like to discuss the formation of FOLA. The archives have lots of documents discussing the issues leading to FOLA’s formation. I’ll try to summarize them here.

The Friends of Lake Apopka began as a Legislative Action committee, part of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce. In 1991, in reaction to certain actions taken by the St Johns Water Management District, it was decided to split off into their own independent group. To give the full context, we have to go back to 1988.

WOCCMinutesJuly1991

According to these minutes from the WOCC, prior to 1988 “pumped discharge” (i.e. from the muck farms) was regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. (The DER is now part of the Florida Dept of Environmental Protection). In 1988 this type of regulation was delegated to the SJRWMD. Also noted in these minutes: In 1989 the SJRWMD signed a consent order with the Zellwood Drainage District.

This 1989 order is in the archives. It’s 20 pages long. The archives also hold a document noting various issues with this consent order, written by Jim Hawley. Some of the major concerns include various loopholes and ambiguities in the language of the order. A major issue is the duration of the order: it would allow the ZDD to continue dumping phosphorus for the next 10 years.

This consent order was challenged. Various amendments were drafted, attempting to strengthen the language of the order and shorten its duration. None of these were sucessful. The archives also hold several of these proposed amendments, some of which include comments by SJRWMD staff.

JamesHawleyProposedAmendmentsToSJRWMDRules

The order was approved in May of 1991, and then challenged by James Hawley. These challenges failed:

HawleyLosesLakeApopkaSuit

Another issue with the consent order was the lack of holding ponds required for Zellwood. One point in favor of these ponds was their successful construction by the DUDA farms which neighbored Zellwood on the North Shore. DUDA had begun construction of retention ponds back in 1989. Zellwood, though, felt these ponds weren’t economically feasible for their own holdings.

So, after the consent order was upheld and finalized in October 1991, the Friends of Lake Apopka were formed.

MemoJimThomasFOLAFormation

A position paper was drafted, outlining FOLA’s major concerns and potential routes towards restoration. Letters were sent to various Florida officials, including the Governor, Lawton Chiles. A recruitment drive was began, soliciting members from the various communities around the lake, as well as corporate sponsors. The first meeting was scheduled for January 14 of the next year.

Week 11: The Friends of Lake Apopka