FWC News Release
Contact: Michael Hill, 850-265-3676
Within two weeks, two 2,000-pound metal gates in the aging Lake Iamonia dam in north Leon County will be removed.
“The gates are being removed simply as a precautionary measure,” said Michael Hill, a fisheries biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “If we get heavy rains with the Ochlockonee River flooding and Lake Iamonia suddenly refills with the gates closed and in place, we run the risk of a massive failure of the dam.
“If that were to happen, anyone fishing or recreating in or around the sinkhole area would be in danger.”
Hill said the dam was originally built in 1938 to separate the 5,757-acre lake from the sinkhole. Historically, the lake goes dry during drought periods. The dam was built to prevent lake water from going down the sinkhole. Fisheries biologists now know that a naturally fluctuating water level ensures the best health of a lake, as in nearby Lake Jackson.
In 1980 the Northwest Florida Water Management District declared the dam “unsafe to impound lake water.” Hill said following the District’s verdict about the dam, the gates were raised and chained in the open position but never removed.
On a related matter, Hill said he is hopeful the necessary permits and funding can be secured to remove muck from the Lake Iamonia lake bed sometime this winter or next spring.
“Obviously, having a lake bottom free of two feet of muck will be good for game fish when normal rainfall resumes and the lake refills,” he said.