LAKEWOOD RANCH — As Ryan Heise walks between stormwater ponds at Braden River Nature Park, he nods toward what looks like greenish-brown fuzz growing atop the water.
The vegetation, which now has grown beyond the water’s surface, is not bad for the lakes, but it is for aesthetics.
“We recognize it doesn’t look great,” Heise said. “It’s a normal (occurrence this time of year). We are trying (to combat it). The contractors are ready to start treating when the opportunity presents itself.”
Heavy summer rains have left lake-maintenance contractors in a precarious “to-treat-or-not to-treat” situation.
Heise said they have been caring for ponds as best as possible, but are taking precautions. Chemicals used to treat submerged vegetation and algae also kill grass that comes in contact with treated water. And, with water levels that fluctuated by about 1.5 feet in June, contractors have been careful not to treat ponds when doing so could jeopardize the grass around the water’s edges.
“With 20 inches of rain in June, water levels went way up,” Heise said. “It was above the designed normal water level (for our retention ponds). That prevents us from treating with a chemical to treat for algae and submerged vegetation. The chemical we use is not (plant specific).”
The National Weather Service reports the Sarasota/Bradenton area received 8.74 inches of rain in the month of June, bringing year-to-date totals to 21.21 inches, on average.
Heise’s data, collected from gauges throughout Lakewood Ranch, however shows Lakewood Ranch saw significantly higher rainfall amounts in June — between 14.4 and 21.3 inches of rain in specific areas, such as Herons Nest Nature Park, Braden River Nature Park, along Balmoral Woods Boulevard and at University Parkway and Lorraine Road.
Comparatively, May rainfall ranged from 2 to 5.5 inches within Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.
In June, contractor Aquatic Systems focused on trash pickup and cleaning out carp-barrier and outfall structures at each of Lakewood Ranch’s stormwater ponds, because treating lakes was not permissible, Heise said.
Despite a Manatee County-led summertime ban on nitrogen-based fertilizers, the summer still is when the most nutrients — from items such as yard clippings and dog waste — flow into retention ponds and make algae blooms more prevalent. The movement of water, associated with rains, generally breaks up algae, but it promotes growth of the submerged vegetation and an algae, called chara, now being seen as water levels recede.
“To get full control, we have to wait for the water levels to come back down,” Aquatic System’s District Manager Jeff Whaley said. “I think we’re on that path now.”
Heise said getting the ponds back to their former aesthetic appeal will take time.
“It’s going to take the month of August to get caught up,” Heise said. “Things won’t look too pleasing until then.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].