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Developing a Management Plan for White Lake

By Joy Warren
A second public workshop was held Thursday evening to discuss developing a Management Plan for White Lake.  Dr. Diane Lauritsen of Limnosciences/Envirochem began the presentation by stating that “effective lake and watershed management is based on an understanding of the ecosystem — long-term monitoring and special studies — and an understanding of how land use and recreational use can impact water quality and quantity.”  The need for such a plan comes from the concerns that have risen as changes have occurred over the last couple of years with lake water clarity and quality.  White Lake is a State owned lake with various entities involved including NC Division of Parks and Recreation, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and NC Division of Water Resources.  Other local/regional agencies are also involved with a focus on land use/watershed including Lumber River Council of Governments, Town of White Lake, Bladen County, and Bladen Soil and Water Conservation District.  
The last management plan was written by the NC Division of State Parks in 1996.  It is time for an updated plan based on what has been indicated by monitoring and testing conducted by various groups.  Noted changes include groundwater changes and drainage concerns; extreme rainfall events and more abnormally dry periods; atmospheric/climate changes as evidenced by nutrients in rainfall and increasing temperatures; changes in function of surrounding wetlands and more polluted storm water runoff; and increase in lake water pH and changes in the types of lake life. In addition a cyanobacteria was effectively eliminated through the use of an Alum treatment and Hydrilla is no longer well established in the lake.  NC DWR determined that NC State Parks must apply for NPDES permit for any future in-lake treatments.  Continued monitoring data would determine if another treatment was needed.
Jim Perry, with Lumber River Council of Governments gave an overview of storm water assessments and management needs for the lake.  He is currently mapping outfalls and ditches; analyzing water samples from pipes and ditches after rainfall; assessing Best Management options for priority spots; and helping to develop a storm water management program for the town, including lawn runoff of nutrients and other contaminants.  Perry complemented the Town on “their aggressive approach to the wastewater collection system repair and rehabilitation.  The Town received a State Revolving Fund Loan to begin work in March 2020.
Perry shared information on Surficial Aquifers which is what feeds the lake.  Surficial aquifers are shallow aquifers typically less than 50 feet.  They mostly consist of unconsolidated sand enclosed by layers of limestone, sandstone or clay and the water is commonly extracted for urban use.  Springs can be a part of this system as well, percolating water into the lake, but the springs are responsive to droughts and floods, which may give an indication as to why there is little to no flow from the springs at this time.  Perry also shared that the Berry Farms do not affect the aquifer flow that feeds the lake.  Their water is pumped from a deeper aquifer and the irrigation ponds that most farms use for winter spraying help to recharge the surficial aquifer.
Citizens attending the workshop were very appreciative of the information provided by both Lauritsen and Perry.  As one person noted, providing rational information helps to dispel rumors and miscommunications.
Dr. Lauritsen shared a comment from Jay Sauber with NC DENR who said “we need to be reminded that the lake is not a swimming pool.”  People may have unrealistic expectations of what can and cannot be done.  We must work together to get the lake back to the best that we can.  It may never be what it was 40 years ago, but we can do our best to keep it healthy. 
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