June 26, 2012
The Southwest Florida Water Management District is working to move water out of Lake Tarpon; however, the sustained winds and high tides caused by Tropical Storm Debby are pushing water in from Old Tampa Bay, hampering efforts.
The Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal is one of 81 water control structures throughout the District’s 16-county area. The three-mile canal extends from the south end of Lake Tarpon and empties into Old Tampa Bay. The structure is designed to prevent salt water from entering Lake Tarpon during high tides and protects the lake’s freshwater ecology.
Normally, water levels in the lake are three to four feet higher than water levels in the bay. However, due to the sustained high tides caused by Debby, there is only about a six-inch difference in water levels, leaving very little room to release water from the lake.
“We’ve received nearly 100 calls from concerned residents,” said David Crane, District Structure Operations manager. “We are doing the best we can to move water out of the lake, however the wind and tides are pushing water in from the bay and we are being forced to close the gates periodically to prevent saltwater from intruding into the lake.”
Lake Tarpon is continuing to receive water from the surrounding area and it may take several days before the District will be able to reduce the lake levels to an acceptable level.
According to Crane, Tropical Storm Debby’s track and length of stay in the gulf has created an unusual situation.
District Structure Operations staff have been monitoring water levels on all of the agency’s water control structures around the clock since Saturday.