OKEECHOBEE — The Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) helps reduce the phosphorus in water from the Taylor Creek and Nubbins Slough basins before it goes into Lake Okeechobee, Libby Pigman of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), told Okeechobee County commissioners at their Nov. 25 meeting.
To remain effective, an STA needs continual water flow. A pump station removes water from the Nubbin Slough basin, which is in Okeechobee County, and moves it into the Lakeside Ranch STA.
The Nubbin Slough Basin is one of the critical hot spots for phosphorus, said Pigman. The goal of the Lakeside Ranch STA is to make that water cleaner before it goes into lake.
“The scientists figured out that nature had it right and the best way to remove phosphorus is to allow vegetation to do that,” she said.
“We have a tremendous amount of public use at these STAs,” she said, noting the Okeechobee Nature Photographers group has photographed lots of birds and wildlife at the STA.
“It’s bigger than the Taylor Creek STA,” she said.
According to the presentation:
• The Lakeside Ranch STA is a 2,700-acre STA capable of treating stormwater runoff from the Taylor Creek and Nubbins Slough basins flowing into Lake Okeechobee.
• The wetlands use plants such as cattails to remove phosphorus from the runoff naturally.
• Completed in 2012, Phase 1 encompasses roughly 1,200 acres, including 920 acres of effective treatment cells that can hold more than 3,600 acre-feet of water for treatment.
Pigman also updated the board on the Nubbin Slough STA. There have been some problems with that project, Pigman explained, and a $3.2 million repair project has been approved. This project will repair the west and south levee seepage ditch; provide an access ramp for the public at the STA entrance; and replace stilling well tubes. (A stilling well is a pipe with one or more comparatively small inlets connected with a main body of water or flow channel. The water level in the well can be measured and used to calculate flow or to control devices such as gates or pumps.)
Pigman said there is also discussion about putting an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) well in this area.