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.