Efforts to restore Lake Panasoffkee recently took a major step forward. The dredging of Step 2 of the Lake Panasoffkee Restoration Council’s four-step, multi-million dollar restoration plan began July 7.
The Lake Panasoffkee restoration project involves dredging approximately 8.4 million cubic yards of sediment from the lake, which will improve fish habitat, restore the historic lake shoreline and improve navigation. The project will also restore approximately 920 acres of open-water habitat that has been lost to the encroachment of dense emergent vegetation since the 1940s. Lake Panasoffkee is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and is one of the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) priority water bodies.
Approximately 25 acres were restored in Step 1, the Coleman Landing Pilot Dredging Project. Step 1 was completed in December 2000.
Step 2, also referred to as dredging to hard bottom, began on the southwestern shoreline of the lake near Turtleback Fish Camp and RV Park. Dredging will generally progress in a clockwise manner around the lake, moving along the western shoreline to the northern portion of the lake, then along the eastern side of the lake in the vicinity of Grassy Point and Shell Point. This step is expected to continue through November 2005.
“The beginning of dredging of Step 2 represents the culmination of six years of hard work and dedication on the part of the Lake Panasoffkee Restoration Council, the Council’s technical advisory group and District staff,” said Mike Holtkamp, the District’s project manager. “The dredging contract of the full-scale in-lake restoration effort, which consists of Steps 2 and 3 of the Council’s recommended 4-step restoration plan, represents the single largest capital project undertaken by the District since its inception in 1962. We are all very proud of this accomplishment.”
The material that is dredged from the lake is being deposited at a spoil site off County Road 482 South, immediately west of Interstate 75.
Once Step 2 is complete, the District’s dredging contractor will begin dredging Step 3, which involves dredging in a north to south direction, ending at the beginning point of Step 2 at the south end of the lake. The dredging of Step 3 is expected to continue through January 2008, however, all time frames are approximate and may change based on conditions beyond the District’s control.
“In four years, when all is said and done, approximately 1,977 acres of lake area will have been restored or enhanced in connection with the full-scale in-lake restoration effort,” said Holtkamp.
Step 4 consists of dredging out residential canals and will be completed by Sumter County.
The total cost of the 4-step restoration plan is approximately $26 million. The state Legislature has appropriated a total of $19.07 million from 1999 up to and including the state’s 2005 budget to implement the restoration plan recommended by the Council. The District’s Withlacoochee River Basin Board and SWIM Program budgeted $2.55 million to the project from 1999 to 2004. The District also secured $469,733 from FDOT, $1.10 million through federal appropriations and $2 million from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). With the Legislature’s recent appropriation of $4.32 million, coupled with the recently entered into grant agreement with the FFWCC, the in-lake components of the council’s restoration plan are fully funded.