GRASS GRASS GRASS

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GRASS 

It may be all about the grass but first a clean substrate is necessary to plant and that is why we vacuum dredge. Removing years of nutrient laden muck and detrital material exposing the sand and gravel base optimal for root growth. Grass is the key component of the Homosassa River Restoration Project. Grass cleans the water, stabilizes sediments, provides food and habitat for fish and animals, and helps remove harmful nutrients. Healthy grass beds will change an algae-dominated water body into a beautiful, clean, clear, sustainable plant based ecosystem.Map, phase, areas

Grass units planted last October are taking root and beginning to spread. Sea & Shoreline biologists concentrated on the main riverbed on the east side of the Fishbowl Drive Bridge (Area A) and we are seeing the rewards of their efforts. Despite the negative pressures of people and manatee’s lateral growth has been better than expected in a good portion of areas planted. Small colonies of grass have also started to migrate and root downstream as well.

In the spring of this year Area “B” was planted along with Area “C” in June. This past week Area “D” was planted and marked the beginning of the use of herbivore exclusion cages.exclusion, cage, herbivorygrass units, eelgrass,                                            In Area “D” alone there were 119 herbivory cages, 595 4″ potted plant units, and 6,215 mechanical plant units installed. To date biologists have installed 28,920 individual plant units in Area’s “A” through “D”

EXCLUSION CAGES

What are they and why do we use them? Manatee’s eat grass. They eat a lot of grass and that includes ours. As long as the grass blades are chewed off near the bottom, similar to cattle grazing on a pasture, no problem. An issue arises if the grass root systems are not strong enough to keep the grass from being completely dislodged. People walking along the bottom can cause similar problems. Herbivory cages help protect young grasses until they are able to establish root systems strong enough to withstand a hungry manatee. FWC regulates when and how we can use underwater devices and until now there was insufficient water depth to use the cages. The cages are kept in place for 1 to 2 years and have to be cleaned regularly.

Exclusion cage with new grass

 

“BUT I JUST HAVEN’T NOTICED MUCH CHANGE”

It has taken many years of steady decline to reach where this river is today. Restoration projects of this magnitude do not occur overnight. The Homosassa River is still algae dominant but as the grass beds expand they will slowly drive out the Lyngbya. Floating mats of Lyngbya will, and have, moved back into area’s already cleaned and planted.  It makes it hard to see the grass but it is there developing strong root systems and spreading out. Grasses have begun to develop some height as well. Maintenance of these previously cleaned and planted sections will begin soon. This periodic maintenance is important until the grasses gain a foothold over the Lyngbya.

diver, grass, sea grass
Biologist delivering grass to the river bottom

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Spread the word!! Anchors and props damage grasses. Try and watch where you stand if enjoying a day in the headwaters. Just like your lawn, aquatic grasses can be destroyed by too much foot traffic.float don't stand, protect aquatic grass

Continue to follow us on Facebook and this website. We keep expenses to a minimum but running an organization, even a volunteer one, has overhead.  DONATE to our 501c3 if you can or we are listed with Amazon Smile which makes helping us easy and free to you if you are an Amazon shopper.


Restoration Progress Second Quarter 2021

RESTORATION PROGESS SECOND QUARTER 2021

Sea and Shoreline work crews moved rapidly to clean as much river bottom as possible in the area adjacent to the park as the second quarter of 2021 came to a close and before the madness of scallop season descended upon us. We were able to complete Areas C & D before the July 4th holiday. Unfortunately the part of Area E (where many of the boats anchor) is still being cleaned but we should be able to move within the safer confines of Mitten Cove within Area E by the end of next week. That area is very thick with muck and detrital material and it is expected that our square footage per day completion totals will drop accordingly.

As the busy scallop season begins our intent is to focus on the Blue Water Loop Canal (Area F) during most of July. Less boat traffic in the canal makes it easer and safer for divers to work underwater. Plans to deploy a second barge and crew were delayed but should be in place soon.

 

 Turbidity curtains will often be in place while divers are working. It is possible to navigate your vessel over a turbidity curtain. Simply have the boat in forward motion and as you approach the curtain place in neutral and trim up your motor to clear the curtain. Kayaks and canoes can also pass over the curtains fairly easily.

 

!!! PLEASE LOOK OUT FOR DIVERS. IF YOU ARE UNSURE ASK THE SPOTTER ON THE BARGE BEFORE ENTERING THE AREA !!!

WORKSITE

Currently there are two Geo Tube filter bags in place and operational and a third will be added this week. The worksite, across Halls River Road form the entrance to Publix, will be in use though the Phase One permitted area.

PERMITTING

Permitting for Phase Two is well underway and we expect to have permits from both Army Corp and Department of Environmental in our possession very soon. This second round of permits will allow Homosassa River Restoration Project Inc.  to clean and restore up to the confluence of the Homosassa and Halls Rivers.

GRASSES

Approximately 14,000 grass units have been installed in Sections “A” and “B”.  Some areas that experience a lot of foot traffic are not doing well and are void of any grass. Those areas that people tend to stand on less frequently have had exponential growth and are doing even better than we expected.  HRRP has suggested that our contractor wait until August to plant on the west side of Fishbowl Drive. At least where all the boats tend to congregate. Downside to that is we miss some great growing season time which is important to well established grasses before hungry manatees begin to show up in the cooler months. Final decision will be left up to the experts at Sea and Shoreline.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?


barge, divers, pump

WEEK SIX 2021 UPDATE

SIX WEEK RESTORATION UPDATE

Homosassa River Restoration Project had divers back in the water April 1, 2021. The removal of Lyngbya, muck, and other detrital material is progressing smoothly though perhaps a bit slower than we had hoped. While cleaning the Spring Cove Canal (Area “B”) there were some issues with clay mixed in with the muck which made it difficult for both the divers and the worksite crews when it came to filtering and returning clean water to the river. These issues were resolved and the canal was finished last week. Map, phase, areas

On Tuesday May 11th we were fortunate to have a tide low enough to move the barge and pump equipment under the Fishbowl Drive bridge. Operations are now underway directly in front of the Homosassa Springs State Park observation platform. You can see the barge as you drive over the bridge. This crew will be joined by a second barge and group of divers next week. The expectation is that Area’s “C” and “D” will be cleaned by early June 2021.

WHAT ABOUT THE GRASS?

As you already know our contractor, Sea & Shoreline, installed 11,000 grass pods just before ending operations November 1, 2020 for the winter manatee season. Yes there has been loss of grass. Mostly due to people standing and walking as well as damage from boat propellers. There are, however, areas that are thriving.  The type of grass we are planting prefers to grow out laterally at first and staying short. As it gets thicker it will begin to compete with itself and start to get longer and taller. Our biologists are also finding grasses that have been covered by muck for years and dormant but the cleaning efforts have made conditions right and they are able to grow once again.

New grasses

This will not be an overnight process. It has taken Save Crystal River several years to achieve the amount of grass meadows they now have. While HRRP believes we can make it happen quicker than that it will not be an easy task. The Lyngbya will not give up willingly. Manatee’s, turtles, fish all love to eat the grasses as well.  It will be a struggle to get ahead of the curve but we will be successful. New grass planting will begin in Area “B” around May 15, 2021

MAINTENANCE

But why is there still some muck and Lyngbya in the already cleaned areas? Part of our contract with Sea & Shoreline is periodic maintenance of previously cleaned and planted areas. Keep in mind that this is a natural spring and river system and not Disney World. The divers, as hard as they try, will never get all of the bad stuff on the first clean. Tides, wind, and currents will always be working to move Lyngbya and debris back into completed areas. The key is to give the grasses a fighting chance to push out the Lyngbya and thrive on their own.

PERMITTING

All documentation has been filed with both the Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corp to permit the restoration process up to the confluence of the Homosassa River and the Halls River. The hope is that the process of securing the permits will move along much faster than last year.

SEA & SHORELINE CREW

The divers, biologists, and support personnel of Sea and Shoreline who joined us for a night off and a little food and fun These are the hard working folks helping us restore the Homosassa River.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Follow our progress on Facebook and website
  • Spread the word about what we are doing
  • When possible educate others on how to protect this beautiful and fragile resource.
  • Donate if you can.
  • Let your local and state leaders know that additional protections in the form of local ordinances and legislation are necessary to protect this river for future generations to enjoy.  You can email Senator Wilton Simpson at simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov and Representative Ralph Massullo at Ralph.Massullo@myfloridahouse.gov


Moving Forward in 2021

Winter Manatee Season Has Ended

FWC regulations do not allow In-water operations during manatee season and restoration has been at a standstill since the last day of October last year. Well perhaps not a complete standstill. Over 11,000 units of grass were planted before divers left the waters on the eastside of Fishbowl Bridge and those plants have been slowly taking root.

eelgrass, grass pods, grass
Grass pods ready for planting.

Yes we have had some losses due to manatees and also people standing and walking along the bottom but it is a start.  Now, with the summer growing season almost here and hungry manatee’s off to the Gulf, we will begin to see noticeable changes. An assessment of how many grasses survived and their locations will be completed during the first few weeks.

Where Is The Project Now?

This map shows the river and canals that were first permitted, designated as Phase 1. Before ending operations last fall we were able to complete Area “A”. Beginning immediately divers will be back in Area ‘B”. The plan is to then move into Area’s “C”, “D”, “E”, and “F” in that order. That order may have to change depending on the amount of boat traffic we experience. That would also use all of our current funding. Homosassa River Restoration Project has been working hard to secure the funds to continue and we are very optimistic that we will able to complete Area “G” this summer as well. That will finish the entire 25 acres first permitted.

What’s Next You Ask.

Phases 2 and 3 will be covered under the second permit. As shown on the map this will bring the restoration project up to the confluence of the Homosassa and Halls Rivers.  The expected timeline for completion of both phases is end of summer 2022 if enough funding is obtained. Total restored river and canals at this point would be a little over 46 acres. Remember that maintenance of the restored area will continue for an additional two years until grasses are established.

And Then?

Well to be honest that will depend on several factors. Some of them political in nature. Our main benefactor in the Florida Senate, Wilton Simpson, will be leaving office due to term limits. Senator Simpson has backed the Homosassa River Restoration Project as well as Save Crystal River and without his support neither group would have been successful. Representative Ralph Massullo has always supported our efforts on the House side and will remain in office. Funding for a restoration project of this size must be funded at the state level and it is our hope that our legislators continue to see the benefits of a clean and healthy Homosassa River.

How You Can Help

Spread the word!! Anchors and props damage grasses. Try and watch where you stand if enjoying a day in the headwaters. Just like your lawn, aquatic grasses can be destroyed by to much foot traffic.

If you are boating near a work area PLEASE watch out for divers. Keep in mind there may, and probably will, be more than one diver in the water.

Continue to follow us on Facebook and this website. We keep expenses to a minimum but running an organization, even a volunteer one, has overhead.  DONATE to our 501c3 if you can or we are listed with Amazon Smile which makes helping us easy and free to you if you are an Amazon shopper.