Water is flowing through the gates of the Deer Point Lake dam at the rate of 1.7 billion gallons per day.
For the fourth consecutive year, a winter drawdown of the lake is underway. On Monday, eight of the ten gates separating the lake from North Bay were opened. The drawdown is scheduled to last for 75 days.
"We're going to drop it down two and a half feet... so we're going to drop the lake basically in half," said Paul Lackemacher, Utility Services Director.
The county is hoping to kill nuisance aquatic vegetation by exposing it to freezing temperatures during the coldest time of the year. The weeds bloom out of control in warm weather and encroach on swimming areas, wrap around boat propellers and foul fishing lines.
Billy Adams, a long time resident, said Deer Point is practically unfishable. "To me, it's not fun anymore," he said.
With a simple push of a few buttons at a control panel, chief operator Bobby Gibbs set giant "screws" in motion, which raised the gates and allowed gravity to drain water from the lake. It flowed slowly at first, then began rushing through the gates in a show of power and velocity.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the drawdown will also improve boater access and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. Lakefront property owners will have a chance to repair docks and bulkheads and the county will conduct maintenance at the station that pumps drinking water from Deer Point to the treatment plant on Transmitter Road.
"This gives us an opportunity to go in there and clean the pump columns and also check the screens at the bottom of the pumps and the fish screens on the outside of the pump station," said Lackemacher.
With the flow at 1.2 million gallons per minute, Lackemacher said it will take about a week to reach the target depth. The drawdown is scheduled to last until February 15, but the timetable could be extended if heavy rains raise the lake level during the 75 day period.
Adams said he's glad the drawdown is underway. "If the water goes down low enough to kill the grass, it still leaves a sort of a mess on the bottom but you don't get your motor hung up as bad," he said.
Now, it's up to Mother Nature to deliver. "For [the drawdown] to do any good, we need temperatures to get down to freezing... or close to freezing...for a few days," said Lackemacher.
Click here to see our coverage of last year's winter drawdown.