The Lake Worth Lagoon
The Lake Worth Lagoon is located in Palm Beach County, running approximately 20 miles parallel to the coast (Figure 1). This valuable urban estuary is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands. Two permanent, man-made inlets, the Lake Worth Inlet and the South Lake Worth Inlet, make it possible for saltwater to mix with freshwater from canals.
Human activities over the past 100 years have degraded the Lagoon's habitat and water quality. Examples include the construction of permanent inlets, dredging and filling of wetlands along the shoreline, channel dredging, wastewater discharges, and the construction of seawalls, canals, bridges, causeways, docks, marinas, the port, and power plant. Today, 81% of the shoreline is bulkheaded, only 283 acres of mangroves remain, and much of the stormwater from the urbanized watershed is not treated to remove pollutants before discharging to the Lagoon.
While the Lagoon faces many challenges, significant natural resources remain that are worth preserving, enhancing, and restoring. Since 1987, multiple partners have implemented efforts to benefit the Lagoon. Projects include creation and enhancement of valuable habitat, implementation of stormwater retrofits to improve water quality, and the recent 2008 update to the Lake Worth Lagoon Management Plan.
Despite the success of the past 20 years, challenges remain. Urban and agricultural runoff containing contaminants, toxins, nutrients, and sediments, increasing residential and commercial growth, and a lack of understanding among residents and visitors regarding how individual behaviors affect the LWL, continue to stress this valuable urban estuary.