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Lake Tarpon at Brooker Creek Mouth

Lake Tarpon is the last lake in the Brooker Creek System. The basin around Lake Tarpon is the Lake Tarpon Watershed and is the portion of the larger Brooker Creek watershed located exclusively within Pinellas County. Lake Tarpon is the largest and arguably most valuable lake in the Tampa Bay region. The following excerpt from the Lake Tarpon Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Plan provides a good description of the lake and issues related to the health of the lake. “With a surface area of approximately four square miles (2,534 acres), Lake Tarpon is the largest freshwater lake in the three county (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco) Tampa Bay Area. In addition to being classified as an Outstanding Florida Water by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the lake was formally designated as a state Fish Management Area by a Special Resolution of the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners in 1963. This sport fishery, along with historically good water quality and the existence of two regional County parks on its shore has made Lake Tarpon a significant environmental, economic and recreational resource to the Tampa Bay area.

However, in recent years, Lake Tarpon and its associated natural resources have begun to exhibit signs of ecological stress. In the summer of 1987, this stress was represented by a major blue-green algal bloom that covered about 80 percent of the lake. The bloom persisted for much of the summer and impeded recreational and aesthetic uses of the lake during the prime recreational season. This algal bloom was seen as an indication that the trophic state (or productivity) of the lake is increasing.

The algal bloom of 1987 and citizen concerns regarding the health of the lake prompted the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners to pass Pinellas County Resolution 87-275, creating the Lake Tarpon Management Committee (LTMC). The LTMC was originally made up of representatives from the agencies charged with protecting the lake and its resources, including the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and of various representatives from local government, citizens groups and the development community.

Coincident with these events, during the late 1980s, concern for the quality of lakes, streams and estuaries throughout the state was increasing and this prompted the Legislature to pass the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act of 1987. The threat to the health of the lake represented by the algal bloom and the ecological, environmental and recreational importance of Lake Tarpon prompted the District to include the lake as the seventh ranked waterbody on the District’s SWIM Priority Waterbody List.