Invasive Plants 2021

Invasive Plants 2021

The lake was treated with herbicide early in November 2021. Some hydrilla helps the water clarity. The County uses a mix of herbicides and grass carp to keep the hydrilla in check.

From a FWC perspective the lake looks great. We have good coverage of submersed vegetation. Water clarity is good. We are seeing an upward trend in our largemouth bass population and noticing more ducks as well. In addition, FWC has treated the Cuban bulrush and other invasive species along the shoreline.

Florida’s Most Invasive Aquatic Plants

  • Hydrilla
  • Aquatic soda apple
  • Crested floating heart 
  • Cuban club-rush
  • Feathered mosquitofern
  • Giant salvinia
  • Hygrophila
  • Lyngbya
  • Water Primrose
  • Torpedograss
  • Water Hyacinth

Hydrilla
Cuban Club-Rush

As many lakefront homeowners already know, adding, removing or modifying the vegetation along the shoreline of Johns Lake is regulated by the state of Florida. These activities are monitored through a permitting process as part of the” Florida Aquatic Plant Management Act” and the “Florida Aquatic Weed Control Act”, both are administered by the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC).

Removal of harmful/invasive plant life is encouraged but it must be done properly and, in most cases, replanting of eco-friendly vegetation in place of the plants removed is required. This is necessary to strike a balance between allowing lakefront residents to enjoy the benefits of a nice, aquatic environment along their shoreline while maintaining healthy standards for appropriate foliage around Johns Lake in general. Part of the conditions of issuing a permit may be the requirement to replant specific vegetation to support a healthy lakefront.

Florida law requires all persons to obtain a permit from FWC prior to controlling, removing or altering aquatic plants in waters of the state

With a permit you can remove invasive plants which will allow room for native plants to grow and expand. This ensures that you have a plan for managing your waterfront that will not harm the water body and help protect the investment you have made in it. The work can be done through physical or mechanical means. Removal by herbicides also requires a permit.

Proper management of the shoreline will also:

  • Enhance aesthetics
  • Improve food and habitat for fish and wildlife
  • Provide erosion control and soil stabilization
  • Ensure plants are present for nutrient uptake which will result in cleaner water

Any lakefront aquatic plant activity that falls outside the above list requires an FWC permit. This
includes creating a sandy beachfront, backfilling soil at the shoreline, etc. Construction of docks
and lakefront structures fall under other permitting requirements.
The homeowner or a contractor working on the homeowner’s behalf is responsible for obtaining the
permit. Once the permit is issued the contractor or homeowner can begin the work. FWC and/or
the EPD should inspect the final result to ensure it meets the requirements specified in the permit.

Lake Level Data 4/21 Update

Lake Level Data 4/21 Update

Here is the latest lake level information; the graph shows the last 16 months thru April of 2021.

No Data Found

Lake Level History

Lake Level History

     This graph show the historical lake levels for the last 60 years. We’re still trying to corroborate the all time high during hurricane Jeanne in 2004 because of some conflicting stories about how high the water was and the way data was taken then. However, note the dramatic changes. Johns Lake essentially functions like a reservoir or large retention pond. The trend is higher for the past decade but there has also been some very dry periods in 2001 & 2002 with just pockets of water here and there. This data does not include the current 2020 year with the level as of 10/7/20 at 97.40 NAVD.

Lake Vegetation Update

Lake Vegetation Update

The annual Lake Vegetation Index (LVI) survey was conducted by Orange County Department of Environment Protection in June of this year. The Lake Vegetation Index is a bioassessment procedure that measures the degree to which a freshwater lake supports a healthy, well-balanced plant community. Please see the sample locations below.

     Below is a graph that shows the past LVI scores for Johns Lake. In the past, the lake was separated into two different lake systems but after 2017 the lake was sampled as one unit. Due to the requirement to randomly select the sample locations and it is hard to tell if the impact of the County’s treatments versus the property owner removal treatments are impacting the overall score. There is a difference in the score for the eastern portion of the lake versus the western portion. This suggests that development along the lake may have an impact on the scores. The overall score for the lake in 2019 was 43. Scores 43 and above are considered good. Our score this year was 42.

No Data Found

Scrub Point Preserve

Scrub Point Preserve

Guest Author: Biagio Gugliotti (Lake County Water Authority)

     Scrub Point Preserve is owned and managed by the Lake County Water Authority. The Preserve is a 93-acre peninsula that juts into Johns Lake from the southern shore on the Lake County side of the lake. Ecologically, the site has been well preserved and there are at least seven threatened or endangered species and many endemic species (native species that occur in a limited geographic area). There are some exotic plant species, usually around the boundaries and along roads, which staff works to control. The staff has also used prescribed fire to manage some of the dryer habitats on the property. Fire is a very important tool for managing habitat for the rare and endemic species.

     Staff periodically leads field trips on the property. In the past, they have led trips for Festival of Flight and Flowers (formerly the Wings and Wildflowers Festival), and for groups like the Florida Native Plant Society. The Water Authority has also partnered with the Lake County Parks and Trails to lead kayaking trips leaving from the County boat ramp on Highway 50 and paddling across the lake to the Preserve. Staff would then lead a guided hike on the preserve before paddling back to the boat ramp.

     Currently, there is no public access from the land, but access is allowed by boat at the northern point. In recent months more and more boaters are using the preserve. It appears that during the Covid-19 outbreak, more people are socializing on their boats and watercraft since bars and other social venues are closed. Unfortunately, this is having a negative effect on the preserve. The preserve is opened from sunrise to sunset. Alcohol, pets, hunting, trapping, and camping are not allowed on the preserve. All plants, animals, and cultural and historic resources are protected. Some of the issues have been with alcohol and trash on the preserve. The other big issue is the native shoreline vegetation is being destroyed by boats. The original beach area at the point was about 40 feet wide and would accommodate 3-4 boats. As attendance has increased, the opening in the vegetation has become wider and wider.

     Staff installed signs (pictured below) on either side of the opening in an attempt to educate boaters and create a physical limit to the extent of the opening in the vegetation. Within a week of installation, both signs were torn down. Staff was able to relocate the signs in the water and reinstall them. At the time of this writing, one sign has been torn down a second time and the other was twisted around so that the sign was facing the shoreline. The Water Authority is also working with the Lake County Sheriffs Marine Unit to increase patrols of the area.

     The Water Authority wants the public to enjoy the natural beauty of the property, but please be respectful and follow the posted rules.

Johns Lake Quality Indicators

Johns Lake Quality Indicators

Over the years, the Johns Lake Improvement Association (JLIA) has dealt with numerous potential problems and threats to Johns Lake.   JLIA has recently identified five Quality Indicators that will be monitored and reported in the newsletters moving forward. They included Lake Levels, Water Quality, Invasive Vegetation, Drainage, and Habitat.

An easy to understand reporting tool has been developed using a stoplight approach with a brief explanation for each quality indicator. The JLIA will use data provided from the county and other organizations and will make some subjective measurements. The intent is for lakefront owners to be able to easily see where the JLIA feels issues involving the lake need attention or additional discussion in the newsletters.

Let’s all continue to do our part to keep Johns Lake an enjoyable place to live!

Johns Lake Water Level Update

Johns Lake Water Level Update

 

     Lake levels are measured by using the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88). It is similar but not the same as measuring from “Sea Level”. The official recorded lake level as of September 20, 2019 was 96.70 feet above NAVD 88 and the Normal High Water Level is 97.36 NAVD 88. This level is less than one foot below the Normal High-Water Elevation.

     Although variations in lake elevation are very good for the health of the lake and fish habitat if it gets too high it could flood some of our homes and cause damage to our docks.

Johns Lake Outfall Study

Johns Lake Outfall Study

Background

Johns Lake is part of a 26 square mile drainage basin where storm water collects and flows into Lake Apopka through a canal/ditch called an Outfall. In the case of Johns Lake, there are man-made structures, culverts and ditches that are used to allow Johns Lake to self-regulate extremes of lake water levels. Johns Lake “outfall” is primarily through a water channel to Lake Apopka as shown in the picture below.

If Johns Lake water levels cannot self-regulate then there are serious consequences:

  • Homes and land can flood
  • Piers and docks can be submerged
  • Agriculture surrounding the lake will suffer
  • Erosion can occur
  • Natural habitat and ecosystems are negatively affected
  • Public boat ramp access can be unsafe (authorities will close the ramp)
  • Parks and Conservation areas may close
  • Water sports and recreational activities may be impacted
  • “Tussocks”  (floating islands) can appear and migrate around the lake and cause damage

When water levels are at Normal High-Water Elevation (NHWE) and tropical storms or hurricanes occur at the same time these problems are more severe. There is a valid concern that Johns Lake is not currently draining as fast as it used to and not as fast as needed. Right now, this may not be a big problem, but the lake level could easily go above the normal high-water mark and potentially flood some of our homes and do damage to many of our docks.

The lake level is not controlled but is affected by the outfall size and condition. If the flow is restricted by developers or culverts/road crossings, then the lake will rise, if there are no restrictions at all the lake could get too low. Currently the area from the northeast corner of the lake, under the Florida Turnpike up to Highway 50 is severely overgrown, has not been maintained by anyone for more than a decade and the water level has been too high to do anything for the last few years.

The area from the Turnpike to highway 50 is subject to development within the Town of Oakland. The current culverts under Motamassek road will be replaced in 2023 and size determination is critical. The size and design of this whole Outfall Pathway is critical to the health of Johns Lake. Everyone should be concerned.

Maintaining the outfall has become an expensive and labor-intensive task involving heavy equipment and reassessment of the engineering and maintenance of the outfall is needed.

Outfall Study (First Steps) –

There are many stakeholders and government entities involved with various aspects of Johns Lake stewardship; here are just some:

  • Town of Oakland
  • City of Winter Garden
  • Orange County
  • Lake County
  • SJWMD (Saint John’s Water Management District)
  • FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission
  • Florida DEP (Department of Environmental Protection)
  • JLIA (Johns Lake Improvement Association)
  • Friends of Lake Apopka
  • Lake area residents
  • Owners of private property along the outfall

Thus, a study by a professional engineering company was commissioned to build consensus and have a workable plan going forward to maintain Johns Lake and protect the interests of all involved.  The timing of this is critical with several large land tracts south of Hwy 50 for sale, the area is subject to development/growth. This study is likewise critical to the residents of the lake to ensure water levels don’t become dangerously high during wet season storms/high water and that the lake doesn’t get too low.

On August 7, 2019 the Johns Lake Outfall Study Kickoff Meeting was held at the Orange County Public Works Storm Water Building.  Purpose of the meeting was to facilitate data needs with the Town of Oakland, communicate project objectives, and obtain feedback from both the Town of Oakland and Johns Lake Improvement Association (JLIA). Handouts and exhibits provided for discussion included an agenda and GIS map of the study area. The following provides a summary of the discussion. 

The objective of the meeting was to discuss the ultimate project objective, which is to provide the Town with a conceptual, implementable design alternative to help manage lake levels and flow out of Johns Lake, Lake Tilden, and Black Lake and alleviate local flooding. CDM Smith was selected to complete the data compilation effort of the current project phase, Task 1 Watershed Assessment. The focus is on the primary storm water system of the interconnected Johns Lake, Lake Tilden, and Black Lake and their outfall to Lake Apopka. 

Town of Oakland Town Manager Stephen Koontz noted the concern over the Town’s ability to maintain the outfall “ditch”, especially as it is primarily on private property. Currently maintenance of the ditch is done by obtaining individual access agreements from each property owner.  Stephen also noted that ultimately the Town would like to determine whether any additional requirements should be included in their development codes to ensure no adverse impacts to the system from future development. Potential for joint agreements with neighboring municipalities and public agencies was discussed. City of Winter Garden may be a potential partner in maintaining the outfall canal. SJRWMD may be a potential partner if the project can provide some water quality benefits as Lake Apopka is an impaired waterbody. 

It was noted that fluctuation in lake levels is an important aspect for preserving habitats surrounding the lake. The conceptual design should consider this as it will likely be a concern for FWC. It was unknown whether there are any endangered species within the vicinity of Johns Lake. Johns Lake Improvement Association (JLIA) noted that grass carp are stocked in Johns Lake, but these fish cannot enter Lake Apopka. They are currently physically restricted from traveling into Lake Apopka due to the impediment of the control structure. Conceptual alternatives should maintain this restriction. Town of Oakland Public Works Director Michael Parker will be the contact for coordinating field reconnaissance efforts within the Town of Oakland. JLIA noted that structural flooding is not frequent though there have been instances during the 2004 hurricane season where structure flooding was reported. Piers and docks are frequently underwater. Michael Parker noted that the marsh land around Johns Lake has been dredged a few times and may be considered in the conceptual alternatives.

County Road 455 is currently under a PD&E (Planning Design & Engineering/Evaluation) to evaluate a potential design of extending the roadway and widening it to 4-lanes near the west end of the lake in Lake County and drainage from this roadway should be considered. Future progress meetings will include a meeting to discuss model results and a meeting to discuss the conceptual alternatives. A public meeting will also be held later in the project life to discuss the alternatives. 

 

Conclusion

This study is an exciting development as it will establish a means to justify budget and create design standards to keep Johns Lake a pristine body of water and a desirable place to live.  It will ensure that property values are maintained and environmental issues are addressed with a comprehensive approach.

Johns Lake Improvement Association will continue to liaison and maintain close contact with the stakeholders and monitor the study as the process evolves.   Residents can be assured that future newsletters will contain important information concerning this topic as things move forward.

 

Removal of Lakefront Vegetation

Removal of Lakefront Vegetation

Background

As many lakefront homeowners already know, adding, removing or modifying the vegetation along the shoreline of Johns Lake is regulated by the state of Florida. These activities are monitored through a permitting process as part of the ”Florida Aquatic Plant Management Act” and the “Florida Aquatic Weed Control Act”, both are administered by the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC).

A few definitions are in order:

  1. “Aquatic plant” means any plant, including a floating, immersed, submersed, or shorefront species, growing in, or closely associated with, an aquatic environment, and includes any part or seed of such plant.
  2. “Aquatic plant management” means an activity designed to control the growth of aquatic plants so as to protect human health, safety and recreation and, to the greatest degree practicable, to prevent injury to non-target plants, animal life, and property.

Removal of harmful/invasive plant life is encouraged but it must be done properly and in most cases replanting of eco-friendly vegetation in place of the plants removed is required.   This is necessary to strike a balance between allowing lakefront residents to enjoy the benefits of a nice, aquatic environment along their shoreline while maintaining healthy standards for appropriate foliage around Johns Lake in general.  Part of the conditions of issuing a permit may be the requirement to replant specific vegetation to support a healthy lakefront.

Florida law requires all persons to obtain a permit from FWC prior to controlling, removing or altering aquatic plants in waters of the state unless the waters or activities are expressly exempt from the permitting requirements.

Exemptions

Permits are not required for waterfront owners seeking to remove non-woody vegetation and shrub species from fresh water bodies by physical or mechanical means along 50 feet or 50% of the shoreline (whichever is less) in order to allow open water access for boats or swimmers. 

This exemption does not apply to “Aquatic Preserves” or “Outstanding Florida Waters” locations.

Purpose

With a permit you can remove exotics which will allow room for native plants to grow and expand. This ensures that you have a plan for managing your waterfront that will not harm the water body and help protect the investment you have made in it.  The work can be done through physical or mechanical means.  Removal by herbicides also requires a permit.

Physical Clearing of Aquatic Vegetation
Mechanized Clearing of Aquatic Vegetation

Proper management of the shoreline will also:

  • Enhance aesthetics
  • Improve food and habitat for fish and wildlife
  • Provide erosion control and soil stabilization
  • Ensure plants are present for nutrient uptake which will result in cleaner water

How to Obtain a Permit

Obtaining the right permit(s) can be challenging, depending on where a homeowner resides on Johns Lake.  A State FWC permit is required, a county permit may also be required as well as a city permit in some cases. Here are some guidelines but a homeowner should confirm and adhere to the latest requirements of his/her locale – (checking government web sites is one way to do this):

Orange County:

  1. You are required to obtain a state FWC “Aquatic Plant Management Permit (its free and easy to fill out the online forms)
  2. If you live in Orange County, but outside the city of Winter Garden (Oakland for instance), in addition to the FWC permit, the homeowner should obtain an Orange County “Clearance of Shoreline Vegetation Permit”
  3. If you live in Orange County, in the city of Winter Garden, in addition to the FWC permit, the homeowner should obtain the Winter Garden “Shoreline Alteration Permit”.   Note that this permit negates the requirement for the Orange County permit but not the FWC permit.

Lake County:

  1. Lake County has no local permitting requirement.  The FWC permit process for management of aquatic plants is all that is required.
  2. If you live in Clermont (within Lake County), there are no special permits required. The FWC permit suffices for homeowner aquatic plant management activities.

In the case of multiple levels of permits,  the homeowner must comply with the permit with the strictest requirements.

For the sake of brevity the general requirements of the individual permits will not be covered here and the homeowner must read and carefully adhere to the mandates.

For instance, Orange County requires that a permit applicant contact adjacent property owners to make sure there are no objections to the lakefront activities covered by the permit – this can be done by a “No Objection” form filled out by the neighbors.  Winter Garden permits require a Homeowner’s Association letter of approval if the property lies within an HOA managed subdivision.   The point being that the homeowner should not assume that the general requirements of one permit automatically satisfy another.

In addition, any of the permit issuing agencies may reach out to the homeowner for further information on the project.  The agency may make suggestions or alterations to the project, inspect the results of the project when completed and even take enforcement action if a project has failed to adhere to the permit guidelines.

Permit Assistance and Resources

Florida Wildlife Commission:

Obtaining an FWC permit is a relatively simple process and is free.

  1. Those homeowners wanting to fill out a permit online need to first register as a user on their website.
  2. Click on the text “Register New User” to the right of the User ID box.

If additional help is needed with the application it can be obtained by contacting Sharon Stinson at Sharon.Stinson@myfwc.com or by calling 863-534-7074.   An existing permit can be easily renewed through the same method.

Orange County:

If the property lies in Orange County the permitting falls under the auspices of the EPD (Environmental Protection Division) and the permit application can be downloaded and filled out for submission. It is called a “Lakeshore Vegetation Removal Permit”.  There is a $126 fee for this permit and it can be mailed in or delivered in person to the EPD.   Details concerning application, submission and requirements are on their website.

For additional information the homeowner can contact:

Environment Protection Department
3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200
Orlando, FL 32803

Email: EPD@ocfl.net
Phone: (407) 836-1400

City of Winter Garden:

For the City of Winter Garden permits a homeowner can visit the government office in downtown Winter Garden (300 W. Plant St, Winter Garden, FL 34787) or call the city (407-656-4111) or download the permit application online.

Responsibilities

With a permit you can remove exotics which will allow room for native plants to grow and expand. This ensures that you have a plan for managing your waterfront that will not harm the water body and help protect the investment you have made in it.  The work can be done through physical or mechanical means.  Removal by herbicides also requires a permit.

Additional Considerations

  • If a lakefront construction project (seawall, dock, etc.) in any County or City includes, modifications to Johns Lake aquatic vegetation then a Saint Johns Water Management District ERP (Environmental Resource Permit) may also be required.

    More information is available at:  https://www.sjrwmd.com/permitting/#about-erps

  • If a lakefront aquatic management plan will involve the removal of large growth vegetation, such as trees, the homeowner must contact the state Department of Environmental Protection in addition to the other permit requirements above. This may be done through the following contact:
Capture

Conclusion

Through the permitting process, lakefront owners can insure they are in compliance with the various government guidelines and that the aquatic plant management they are requesting is appropriate and beneficial for the lake and the resident.  Proceeding without proper permitting is a code violation and could result in serious fines, delaying of the project or having to correct work that was done improperly which will result in significant costs to the homeowner.  A government agency could require a remediation plan for the homeowner to correct discrepancies.

Let’s all work together to ensure that Johns Lake continues to be clean and enjoyable for many decades!

Lakefront Fertilizer Guide

Lakefront Fertilizer Guide

Many fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus.  Excess nitrogen and phosphorus are known to cause excessive hydrilla growth, algae blooms, fish kills, and other water quality problems. Anyone applying fertilizer in Orange County should understand how to prevent pollution from the nutrients they spread on their landscape.

Orange County Lakefront Fertilizer Ordinance Requirements

Orange County has regulated fertilizer application since 2009 to help protect our lakes, rivers, springs and groundwater. This ordinance was updated in 2017. Lake County has a similar ordinance.

  • Stores that sell fertilizer must display information about our ordinance
  • Never use fertilizer containing phosphorus (unless a soil test proves it is needed)
  • Never use fertilizer containing nitrogen in summer months (trained people are exempt)
  • If you choose to apply fertilizer with nitrogen, make sure 50% is slow-release nitrogen type
  • Keep fertilizer more than 15 feet away from wetlands and water bodies
  • Use a broadcast fertilizer spreader that has a deflector shield up fertilizer that spills or could end up on sidewalks, driveways, or streets
  • Keep your grass clippings and yard debris out of roads, gutters, and storm drains
  • Ensure your landscape contractor complies with the fertilizer ordinance, too!

You can buy fertilizer that contains zero nitrogen or phosphorus. Look for products that contain minerals such as iron and magnesium, or are labeled as containing, “micronutrients”. When shopping for fertilizer, please use the following helpful information that is found on the fertilizer bag:

  • Where to use the fertilizer (turf, trees, plants?)
  • Percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium
  • How much of the nitrogen is “slow-release” type
  • How much to apply
  • How much area your bag of fertilizer will cover
  • Which number to choose on your spreader dial

Required signage wherever fertilizer is sold

Soil Tests in Orange County

In Orange County, you must always get a soil test before applying fertilizer that contains phosphorus – all year long, not just during the rainy season. Contact the Orange County Agricultural Extension Service (also known as IFAS) for information about having your soil tested: 407-254-9200.

More Information

Conclusion

Together we can all help to keep Johns Lake clean and beautiful. Improper fertilizer application, over fertilizing, and fertilizing within fifteen feet of the lake shore or berm will cause long term problems.

Improper use of fertilizer is what caused Lake Apopka to become so polluted. So let’s not let this happen to Johns Lake!