According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 40% of the American population lives within coastal counties in 2015. This coincides with a 40% population increase in these same coastal counties from 1970 to 2010, in an area which makes up only 10% of the country’s total land mass. As anyone living along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts can tell you, populations have only continued to increase over the last five years. It is unsurprising then that a large concern of many homeowners in these areas is the threat of hurricanes and the associated damage.
Most people in coastal areas typically live on or near man-made stormwater systems, which collect runoff during storms. However, these sites can become a concern any time a hurricane approaches an area due to the increased risk of equipment damage and catastrophic flooding. The water in stormwater ponds is likely to rise much higher than normal during these events, so it’s important that communities and private property owners take steps to ensure their waterbodies are in proper working condition during hurricane season.
1. Remove Debris
Yard debris should be removed from around the site and streets should be cleaned of trash, since this will be flushed into the ponds via storm drains. Even a single plastic bag or soda can could effectively block a control structure and keep water from flowing off-site. Installing debris guards on control structures can be an effective preventative method, as well as the periodic flushing of trash from street drains.
2. Secure Equipment
Many lakes and ponds have fountains, submersed aeration systems, fish feeders and other electrically-run equipment. Unless an absolute necessity (like a pump), it is important to shut off and even remove this equipment from the premises. This minimizes the chance of damage to the equipment during a storm, especially if there are any electrical fluctuations. Another option is to install an anemometer to your fountain control box, which will shut off fountain power if wind speeds rise to dangerous levels.
3. Introduce Aeration
A common phenomenon, both during and after a hurricane, is a fish kill. These events are often caused by the introduction of brackish (high salinity) water or an increase in turbidity (when large amounts of sediment are washed into a waterway). Many freshwater fish species near the coast can tolerate changes in water quality conditions if they become acclimated to it, but rapid changes can lead to suffocation. Fish kills can also be caused by stratification. This means the water is separated by distinct layers of temperatures and dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. The merging of these layers during hazardous storms can cause a fish kill - sometimes within a few hours or days.
If it does occur during the storm, once it’s safe to do so it is important to remove as much of the dead fish as possible to prevent poor odors, decay and the nutrient pollution that fuels nuisance plant and algae growth. But if a fish kill has not yet occurred, it may be possible to reverse some of the negative impacts of the storm. Introducing a fountain or a submersed aeration system can help rebalance to the water column by gradually circulating and increasing DO. Better yet, a nanobubble treatment can be implemented to rapidly restore DO within a few hours.
4. Meet with a Professional
One of the best proactive strategies is a professional stormwater inspection. During these inspections, aquatic management professionals can identify shoreline erosion, clogging and damage to concrete inlets and outlets, problematic invasive species infestations and any other failings within the infrastructure that may lead to complications during high-water events. Sometimes this inspection can lead to recommendations such as flushing storm drains, repairing cracking hardscape, or clearing vegetation within the wetlands behind outflow structures to facilitate the flow of water from a pond.
Hurricanes are stressful events, even without having to worry about the lakes or stormwater ponds in your coastal community. Understanding the potential areas of concern and having a plan of action ahead of time can help alleviate this stress. A few precautionary measures will help prepare your freshwater systems and will help minimize the chance of flooding, infrastructure damage, and fish kills during this dangerous eventuality.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management needs.
SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, shoreline erosion restoration, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America.