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Golf course report card shared

By Staff | Dec 20, 2017

A pretty unique program for the island, the Golf Course Nutrient and Lake Management Recommenda-tions, is going strong with improvements found at all three island golf courses.

Environmental Biologist Holly Milbrandt said in March 2007, City Council adopted a fertilizer ordinance for residential and commercial landscapes. She said golf courses were specifically excluded from the ordinance at the time because they were regulated under a different authority of the Florida Department of Agricul-ture and Consumer Services.

“It was the will of council at the time to definitely take a look at golf courses and think about how we could work with them to address their nutrient and water quality issues,” Milbrandt said. “What we came up with was a voluntary program for the golf courses. The council in 2008, adopted the Golf Course Nutrient and Lake Management Recommendations.”

In July 2011, the city implemented an annual report card for the golf course, which Milbrandt and

Environmental Specialist Dana Dettmar presented to the City Council Dec. 5. With the program going into its seventh year, Milbrandt said they are forming data, enabling them to look at trends.

“Our goal is not to tell them how to run a golf course, but really to provide expertise, specifically when it comes to lake management activity and water quality,” she said.

The report card looks at nutrient and lake management BMPs with a focus on education, lake management, fertilizer management and irrigation and fertigation to help protect their water quality.

The 2017 report card included:

  • The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club receiving 61 out of 65 points, 94 percent
  • The Sanctuary Golf Club receiving 64 out of 65 points, 98 percent
  • Sanibel Island Golf Club receiving 53 out of 65 points, 82 percent

The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club has improved 31 percent since 2011 and a 1 percent improvement since 2016.

“We consider them to be in full compliance with the city’s BMP recommendation,” Milbrandt said.

Dettmar showed pictures of a wash down facility as the water holding area at the Dunes. She said they were having some trouble with holding capacity several years ago, so in 2015 they excavated the area.

“In 2016, the area, very quickly, filled in with vegetation, which is great because we are getting some extra filtering of the water through that vegetation,” Dettmar said.

She also showed a picture of hole 5, where the Dunes was having issues with an irrigation line. What used to run along the lakes edge, now sits 25 feet away from the water body.

“They moved 400 feet of irrigation line and six sprinkler heads, which is great because they do irrigate with reuse water, so that reduces the likelihood of any nutrient enriched water being sprayed directly into the lake,” Dettmar said.

In 2016, she said they documented naturally occurring islands, tussocks, in the lakes. When Dettmar returned this year to do the inspection, the tussocks were still there, but after Hurricane Irma a lot of them floated into a corner.

The Dunes, she said took advantage by contracting a lake management company that has a workboat that harvests algae and aquatic plants.

“They contracted them for three days and they worked for eight hours each one of those days. They harvested a lot of the floating vegetation out of the lake,” Dettmar said.

In addition, she said they are having issues with their retaining walls, which are starting to fail around the course. A suggestion, Dettmar said was re-contouring the slopes.

“This would be an opportunity for us to work with them, so they could create a slope in such a way that would allow the colonization of plants along the lake bank that would further improve water quality,” she said.

The Sanctuary Golf Club has had a 7 percent improvement since 2011, and the same as last year.

“As you can see, they were fairly well in compliance early on in this process in 2011 and their scores have remained relatively stable, so they are also in full compliance. That is because at this point there is very little that they can do to gain more points based on the report card system,” Milbrant said.

Dettmar said in unplayable areas on the course, the superintendents have been removing turf grass and replacing it with native ground covers. In addition, they have removed 480 feet of cart path and replaced it with shell, which further reduces the amount of impervious surfaces on the course.

She said the Sanctuary Golf Club has recently created a Native Plant Pocket Guide that identifies some of the common native plant species seen around the course.

The Sanibel Island Golf Club has had a 28 percent improvement since 2013 and a 6 percent decrease since 2016.

Milbrandt said in November 2012, the golf course went under new ownership.

“The main reason was because they did not provide water quality monitoring data. We had gotten it in previous years, but this year they were unable to provide any data. It’s important that they do provide the data because that is how we able to access where they are having issues, or any hot spots where we should be focusing our efforts,” Dettmar said. “They are in the process of making some changes.”

With that said, she said they do a really good job at maintaining the edges that create buffers along the lake to filter out the stormwater runoff before entering the lake. Dettmar said a lot of the lakes around the course are vegetated with cattails.

“They have been allowing them to grow instead of treating them with chemicals. Cattails do a really good job of uptaking nutrients,” she said. “Unlike the other two courses, on this particular course we did not observe any algae blooms while we were there.”

Mayor Kevin Ruane said that the Sanibel Island Golf Club has had many struggles because of Hurricane Irma.

“They have reached out to us several times. I know they have had some challenges dealing with that. They certainly seemed to get hit the hardest of all. I know they have been good stewards and certainly have had improvements. I have talked to both owners. They are certainly going to continue to do all that they can,” he said. “Just a little bit of a challenge, and I think that is noteworthy. The hurricane was definitely not kind to them at all.”