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White Lake Residents Hear Lake Water Restoration Update

By Joy Warren

A packed room heard an update on the Lake Water Restoration project during Tuesday night’s White Lake Board of Commissioners regular meeting.

Mayor Goldston Womble introduced the team of scientists who have been working on short-term and long-term solutions to the lake water clarity — Dr. Diane Lauritsen with LIMNOSCIENCE, Dr. John Holz and Tadd Barrow with HAB Aquatic Solutions, and Dr. Chris Shank and Dr. Peter Zamora with the Bald Head Island Conservancy Team.

Lauritsen gave an overview of the project which began in 2017 when changes at White Lake were encountered due to the change in pH level. As the pH level increased, harmful algae (Cyanobacteria) and invasive aquatic weed Hydrilla became a major problem. As the 2018 growing season started the pH jumped from 7.8 to 9.6 over the course of a couple of weeks. North Carolina lakes with pH levels above 9 are classified as impaired and conditions become toxic.

An Alum treatment was administered in May 2018, which was designed to floc algae and phosphorus. The treatment had the intended effect as the toxic algae were knocked out and the pH levels decreased. The lake has returned to clear lake conditions, with rooted vegetation and clumps of filamentous (good) algae visible on the bottom, all thanks to the lake management service.

Shank and Zamora gave an overview of their groundwater project. They have not completed all of their work, but stated that they installed wells around the lake to determine inflow, outflow, and quantity of water remaining into the lake. The only groundwater flowing in is from the north and northeast side of the lake and the pH is 4 to 5. There are nutrient hot spots, but they have not analyzed the amounts going into the lake. The groundwater only composes 5 to 6 percent of the volume of the lake, but has a large impact in the amount of nutrients.

Holz spoke about the work that he and his team are doing this week. They are taking sediment core samples to determine the importance of the internal source of nutrients. He will be analyzing samples to determine how much, what kind, and how fast nutrients are coming into the water. He thinks there may be a substantial amount of phosphorus in the “muck” at the bottom of the lake.

Next steps include developing the Lake Management Plan for long-term sustainability of the water clarity. All of the team praised the Mayor and Board for their restoration efforts and for their “model” of working together to determine long-term solutions for the lake.

Womble said that White Lake residents would be kept informed and encouraged their participation in cultivating a culture of stewardship. Ongoing monitoring programs, educational programs, long-term funding resources and governance of lake usage will be important as the Town moves forward in the Lake Restoration Project.

In other business, the Board approved utility releases, tax releases and tax refunds; approved advertisement of 2018 tax liens; authorized participation in the 2019 Fire Department Grant application; and approved the NC State Wide Emergency Management Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement.

Resolutions adopted were FEMA designation of Applicant’s Agent; Budget Ordinance; and a Capital Project ordinance amendment.

Womble also indicated that he sent correspondence to Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor regarding the school calendar. In an effort to protect tourism and its associated revenues in White Lake, Bladen County and the state, the Board asked the Bladen County Board of Education to maintain the current school calendar as set out in North Carolina General Statutes.

The Board of Education was asked to consider the impact that changing the calendar dates would have on the many high school students and teachers who are employed in the summer and the substantial negative impact on the financial well-being of White Lake.

Construction has started on the Multi-Use Path on N.C. 53. The proposed construction end date is May 15.

The Board scheduled a 2019-20 Budget Retreat for March 19, if needed, following the March regularly scheduled meeting.

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