University of Georgia intends to clean polluted campus lake

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The University of Georgia is aiming to clean up a polluted campus lake, whose waters have been off limits to the public since a 2002 algae bloom vividly showed off the lake's high pollution load.

University of Georgia Vice President for Research David Lee recently touted the impending cleanup of Lake Allyn M. Herrick.

"What a black eye on the university," Lee said.

He made the comments while speaking at the university's "Sustainability Summit," where students and faculty talk about sustainability projects they've undertaken, or ones they're planning.

The university has contracted with design firms in the first part of the restoration. Final design plans should be ready by around March, with construction to begin next fall, The Athens Banner-Herald reports.

UGA is getting some help for the restoration from the Southern Company and the Riverview Foundation.

A 2006 restoration plan called for restoring an upper pond which filtered out some pollution before it reached Lake Herrick, but that was shelved after planners in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources discovered that restoring the dam would entail an extensive repair of the upper pond's dam.

The lake, named for a long-serving dean of the Warnell School, Lake Allyn M. Herrick, was built in 1982.

Pollution problems showed up almost as soon as the lake opened. It soon became a favorite for fishing, but managers couldn't maintain a healthy fish population.

It is a part of the Oconee Forest property managed by the Warnell School at the back end of UGA's intramural sports complex off College Station Road. Its drainage area includes a part of Five Points, UGA intramural playing fields and extends to the nearby Athens Perimeter.

Lake Herrick has also become perhaps Athens' top birding spot, and probably the city's most-studied water feature. UGA scientists and students have been studying Lake Herrick's problems for decades.

The upper pond, now drained and more like a wetland than a water body, will be at the center of the first phase, which could include restoring the pond or even converting it into a wetland, UGA Environmental Coordinator Kevin Kirsche said. At the same time and later, the university will also take steps further out into the lake's 248-acre watershed to reduce pollution coming into the lake.

Improving the quality of water flowing into the lake might involve finding a way to cut down on dog poop in the watershed.

Bacteria is the chief pollution problem for Herrick, said Tara Byers, a program coordinator in the UGA Office of Sustainability. Monitors see higher overall pollution loads on Lily Branch and Tanyard Creek, two streams that flow through the campus, she said.

"It's not terrible," she said.

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