Central students launch floating habitat

Shannon CareyFountain City

There’s something new on the water at Fountain City Lake.

A group of AP environmental science students from Central High School created a floating habitat, a small raft of native plants, on the lake June 16. With plant roots extending into the water, the plants will consume nutrients in the lake that are contributing to the lake’s algae problem.

Teacher Jill Strating and CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team member Colleen McWilliams led the project as part of the Adopt-A-Watershed program.

The original launch date was May 24, but when it became apparent that the habitat needed more buoys to support it, the launch was delayed until last week.

“We will keep the floating habitat in for at least a month as a trial period,” said Adopt-A-Watershed coordinator Ruth Anne Hanahan. “These types of structures are also intended to provide additional native fauna habitat. Believe it or not, in just one week the ducks have already nested in it and laid eggs! The intent was not exactly to support the duck habitat, but there is certainly no way we can discriminate.”

Hanahan said visitors may see that the floating habitat’s plants appear to be struggling.

Central High students Barc Johnson and Riley Cadwell helped refurbish and launch an algae-eating floating habitat on Fountain City Lake.

“We are concerned that it may be riding too high over the water for the plant roots to extend into the water,” she said. “However, this is a trial, and with sufficient rains it may allow time for root growth to penetrate an underlying fabric and move into the water.”

The floating habitat was designed in partnership with UT landscape design professor Garry Menendez, whose plan for refurbishing Fountain City lake included floating habitats. Other partnerships include Fountain City Lions Club, city of Knoxville’s stormwater program, and LDA Engineering.

Hanahan also thanked students Barc Johnson and Riley Caldwell for taking time out of their summer breaks to help with the redesign and re-launch.

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