Lake supporters’ influence growing

Published 5:07 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

People from multiple cities, professions and interests gathered in a small country room Tuesday to talk about their big love—Lake Seminole and its tributaries.

About 50 to 60 people attended the Lake Seminole Association’s annual meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Spring Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Seminole County, not far from the lake’s northern shore. The guest of honor was Col. Byron G. Jorns, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mobile District. Jorns provided an overview of the Corps’ work and detailed some of the challenges involved with maintaining Lake Seminole.

Progress has been made in ensuring the permanent status of the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam, which controls the lake’s water level. In a July 2008 letter to Lake Seminole Association founder Tom Waits, U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Monticello, Fla.) clarified his proposal to restore the Apalachicola River ecosystem would not lead to the dam’s removal if the legislation were passed. Boyd has unsuccessfully introduced the idea in Congress twice before.

More progress was made this past summer on a boat trip that took top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials by boat from Apalachicola, Fla., to Blountstown, Fla., by van to Bainbridge, then by boat again to Cedar Springs in Early County, said Association board chairman Billy Barber. Both Col. Jorns and Barber said they learned a great deal about the rivers’ ecology, the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment.

Col. Jorns used before-and-after photos to illustrate the dramatic difference effective application of herbicide can have on nuisance aquatic plants such as hydrilla, which make boating a pain on Lake Seminole and related waters. Jorns credited the association’s relationship with U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany, Ga.), who helped obtain money for additional invasive weed control.

“The association plays a powerful role because it can say things that [the Corps] can’t,” Col. Jorns said. “The partnership helps us achieve our goals.”

Waits, too, said formation of the association had improved relations between lake users and the local Corps of Engineers staff, who regulate everything from water levels to boat docks.

Researchers interested in Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole has also been a focus of academic and scientific study recently.

A researcher at Troy University in Troy, Ala., recently released a report concerning the economic impact of Lake Seminole, Barber said.

Waits and Billy Houston, executive director of the Tri-Rivers Waterway Development Association, said they have a continued interest in making the Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee River Basin navigable for commercial barge traffic.

Steve Opsall, an aquatic scientist with the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway (near Newton, Ga.) said researchers are taking a closer look at Lake Seminole, particularly in the area of water quality sampling.

“We’re studying how the lake aids in removing nutrients, looking at their levels in the water coming in and out of the lake,” Opsall said.

Also attending Tuesday’s meeting were two researchers from the University of Georgia, freshwater ecologist Allen Kovich and Jim Kundell, who has studied a multitude of environmental topics, including water policies related to development of Georgia’s statewide water use plan.

How to join

The association, which started in Spring 2007 with an initial membership of about 50 persons, has since grown to about 80 persons. More are needed, however, so that the association can continue to provide clear, strong advocacy for the lake, Waits said.

Annual membership costs $50, charter membership status is available for an additional $50 during the remainder of 2008. Checks may be made out and sent to Lake Seminole Association Inc., 1104 Gardenia Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32312-3006. Waits can be contacted by phone at (850) 212-3462 or by e-mail at tawaits@mindspring.com.