FGCU and Johnson Engineering team up to restore Lake Trafford

Published: June 12, 2020 3:57 PM EDT
Updated: June 14, 2020 9:55 AM EDT

Johnson Engineering has entered into a partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University to restore Lake Trafford in Immokalee. The partnership is designed to restore the water quality at Lake Trafford by planting eelgrass.

“Without this grass, you take away an underwater ecosystem that would not be there,” said Jacob Yodzis, a recent graduate of FGCU.

Runoff from farming and urban development sites nearby has reduced the natural population of eelgrass. There has also been an increase in the number of exotic plants populating the bottom of the lake. Normally, herbicides would be used to control the exotic plants, but herbicide also damages the environment. When the exotic plants do die, they sink down to the bottom of the lake and release nutrients. Algae then bloom and decrease the habitat for fish, in addition to using up the available oxygen in the lake.

“Without the tape grass, we’re not promoting the vegetation that these other species depend on and need to thrive,” said FGCU grad student Helen Midney.

“This particular species of grass, it’s really the basis of life for a lot of animals, for all the herbivores, carp and snails. It’s also just really good at cleaning the water as well as just creating a nesting ground for our fish. Fish lay eggs on the grass, so that’s a nesting ground for them,” Yodzis explained.

The FGCU students believe that by planting this eelgrass, as a part of the Lake Trafford Restoration Project, it will help clean the water and reverse the damage that the exotic plants have caused. “If you can’t have the eel grasses growing, if you don’t have a clear water system, then you can’t have the fish thriving on the eelgrass which they need to food and cover and stuff like that,” said Daniel Nugent, another FGCU student.

“It really allows the ecosystem to bounce back, and we have better water quality than what we have right now,” said Yodzis.

In the last two days, the group of ten students, says they’re just trying to do their part to make sure the lake is healthy once again by planting the eelgrass in the underwater enclosures they’ve created.

“It is one small piece in the larger work that we need to do to clean up the lake,” said Midney.

Other environmental groups have come to Lake Trafford in an attempt to remove the algae and exotic plants from the bottom of the lake, but FGCU realized more needing to be done.

Midney grew up here, so this has a special place in her heart. “I grew up in Immokalee, and I grew up fishing in this lake, so it’s really important to me that we can revitalize it just for what it is as a natural treasure but also for the community and people outside the community to come and enjoy,” she said.

“It’s kind of like a part of our history, a part of our culture, so I think it’s just important to do our work to save it,” said Midney.