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Runoff from Lake Tarpon still clogs tip of Old Tampa Bay

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While the quality of water in most of Tampa Bay continues to improve with expanding beds of seagrass and robust life above and below the surface, the northernmost tip of Old Tampa Bay remains choked with muck and unpredictable algae blooms.

It’s a situation the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and other water resource agencies have been grappling with for years, and a recently released study may give some guidance on how to make the northern portion of the bay well again.

The noose around the upper expanse of Old Tampa Bay includes the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which cuts off the natural flushing flow of water. Contributing to the problem: the nutrient-rich water flowing into the northern bay from a variety of wastewater treatment plants and a canal that drains Lake Tarpon into the bay.

Nutrients in the water cause oxygen-gobbling algae to bloom, clouding the water. Cloudy water in turn blocks out sunlight, which kills the seagrass beds critical to the life cycle of a healthy estuarine system.

Some tarpon fishermen have given up angling there because they can’t see the game fish in the murky water. Some fishing guides say that when algae blooms in summer, the bait dies of asphyxiation before it can be snapped up by game fish.

All of this didn’t stop John Blauvelt of Odessa and Kim Singleton of Oldsmar from grabbing their fishing poles and heading out to the Upper Tampa Bay Park late Friday morning to wade along the mangrove-clogged shoreline in search of reds and snook.