EPA Workplan: Demonstration Project on Hydrilla and Hygrophila in the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Introduction

Osceola County contains the headwaters of the Kissimmee River Basin with the point of beginning as two creeks in the heart of Orange County ( Orlando) in Central Florida. These two primary creeks flow south into the Upper Chain of Lakes: Shingle Creek in the northwest side of the County and Boggy Creek from the northeast.

Over the past 100 years, many drainage projects have significantly altered the natural hydrology of the central and south Florida ecosystem. Over past 50-60 years, the last major drainage and alteration project was the Central and South Florida Flood Control Project. This took place in the 1960’s and at the completion of the project the natural system had been completely altered. With the primary interest being flood control, the system in Osceola County as it stands has only been slightly modified since that time. Through the control of natural flooding as well as the occasional drought, the natural cleansing cycle has been altered far beyond recognition of the historical high and low stages. The normal hydrological process included high water situations in the summer and fall during the rainy season and low water in the winter and spring during the dry seasons with water level fluctuation ranging from five to ten feet in elevation changes. The entire system is controlled by a series of weirs, locks, levees and other water control structures that have imposed significant hardships on the natural ecosystem. Due to the ideal climate for plant species growth, many exotics have become dominant in the ecosystem in a relatively short period of time.

Primarily the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and Osceola County manage the lakes in Osceola County. Coordination among these various agencies extremely important; quarterly meetings will occur and updates will be given. Input from the various agencies during these meetings will be welcome.

The aquatic plant management techniques that have been implemented in the past and currently practiced are: herbicide applications, mechanical harvesting, cookie cutter work, and large scale habitat restoration projects, all of which are extensive uses of labor and funds. The listed agencies play a critical role in funding projects and programs, as well as providing long-term management. An average dollar amount spent yearly on aquatic plant management would be in the range of $12-17 million dollars, depending on the priorities of the State at the time. The projects are prioritized and funding allocated depending on relative importance. The main project consists of the treatment of invasive exotic aquatic vegetation. The lakes within Osceola County receive the majority of the money allocated statewide. Out of that allocation, 80% goes for the herbicide treatment of hydrilla and hygrophila.

 

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