Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watershed meeting will seek solution to pollution

The Lemon Bay watershed is under siege. But, Sarasota County officials said, it doesn't have to stay that way. And that will be the goal of an interactive workshop, open to the public and aimed at discussing ways to protect and preserve the quality of the area's creeks and bays. The meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. March 21 at the Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 River Road. Sarasota County staff members will lead a discussion with residents about ways they can continue to work together to maintain and improve sea life habitat and water quality in this particular watershed. The watershed workshop is a cooperative effort of Sarasota County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The workshop will open with a discussion of the land and water bodies that comprise the Sarasota County portion of the Lemon Bay watershed. The watershed drains into northern Lemon Bay and consists of Alligator Creek, Woodmere Creek, Forked Creek, Gottfried Creek, Ainger Creek and Manasota Key. Project manager Michael Jones said urban development has brought major changes to the watershed over the past half century. "Natural areas were converted to residential, commercial, agricultural and public use," Jones said. "Area residents, builders and developers certainly didn't set out to threaten sea life or water quality." However, he added, "more people and development have placed greater stress on all our natural systems, including the Lemon Bay watershed." Jones said many of the pollution problems in the watershed can be traced to the fact that without the benefit of natural filtration, rainfall streams directly into the bay. That means it is carrying with it pollutants from stormwater runoff. The good news, he said, is that there are opportunities to protect natural systems throughout the watershed through stormwater and landscaping guidelines. "Low-impact design manages rainfall by capturing it on-site," he said. "This approach closely mimics nature by helping to control downstream flooding, reducing water pollution and the imbalance of fresh and saltwater in the estuaries." Sarasota County's landscape and fertilizer management ordinances prescribe appropriate plant materials, as well as fertilizer type and application schedules, he said. For more information about the workshop, call 941-861-5000.

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