River Club plans to monitor its lakes: Scientific testing will be accomplished with volunteers

EAST MANATEE -- The River Club Homeowners Association hopes to turn their neighborhood into a hands-on science lab for six months to test water quality of the community’s interconnected stormwater lakes.

The testing, projected to start in February, would be done by residents, students, scouts and others.

Why does it matter?

River Club’s 74 stormwater lakes and wetlands cover 152 of the community’s 975 acres and are part of the Braden River watershed.

The Braden River flows through the community to Evers Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to Bradenton.

Bob Mendoza, chair of the surface water committee at the River Club Homeowners Association, said the lakes filter stormwater before it flows into the Braden River. Contamination can eventually flow into the Manatee River and the Gulf of Mexico.

“The idea is to get residents involved with how lakes and the stormwater system work,” said Mendoza, who is retired after more than three decades with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

His daughter, Christina Mendoza, a University of South Florida senior majoring in journalism and minoring in environmental policy, said the lake system is intricate and important to the environment.

A training session, set for 10 a.m. Feb. 26 at the River Club Country Club, will teach residents how to test water samples, and hopefully develop a sense of ownership of the lakes, she said.

The monitoring, using test strips and color wheels, will check for dissolved oxygen levels -- crucial to a healthy fish population; the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, an indicator of the amount of fertilizer washing into lakes from lawns; temperature; and more.

The training will be done by staff from the University of Florida and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Robin Felix, a spokeswoman for the water management district, said three requests from Manatee County for community education grants, including one from River Club for $5,000, have been recommended for approval.

The grant would pay for water quality testing equipment and materials, if approved by the district governing board.

The water management district has awarded community education grants for the past 14 years.

Manatee County grant recipients in 2010 and 2009 used the money for water conservation projects, water restoration projects, a rain barrel demonstration site, and a program to encourage pet owners to pick up waste by their pets.

Among recipients were Garden Lakes, Bradenton Beach, Mill Creek and Lakewood Ranch, Felix said.

Water quality in lakes at Lakewood Ranch has been a perennial concern of supervisors, who have approved projects ranging from aquatic plantings to raising awareness about the proper use of fertilizer.

For more information about the proposed River Club project, call Bob Mendoza at 962-3726 or AMI, the River Club management company, at 359-1134.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.