Save Crystal River to begin pilot project to restore Kings Bay
Crystal River, Fla. – Sept. 13, 2015 – Save Crystal River (SCR) is poised to take the first step in an historic project to remove noxious algae from Kings Bay and restore the waterway’s natural habitat.
The event is historic because it is the first time a non-profit group, or any private sector group for that matter, has gotten the go-ahead plus major funding from the state, in this case $1.6 million, for a plan to begin restoration of the imperiled waters.
SCR, a small group of residents and business people, is confident the pilot project can show how the bay can be reclaimed after being held hostage for over a decade by the invasive algae Lyngbya.
Gator Dredging of Clearwater has its permits and next week is scheduled to begin applying its unique removal process of the algae and dead organic material from two canals in the northeast portion of the bay. Sea and Shoreline of Ruskin, Fla., an experienced marine restoration subcontractor, will then begin replanting native vegetation. When the pilot project is successfully completed, SCR says the next step in the plan is to present the positive results to legislators to obtain subsequent funding for other areas to restore freshwater spring flow into the many canals feeding into Kings Bay. In addition, SCR will continue to work with various government entities and agencies to facilitate the cleanup of the remaining bay waters.
Gator Dredging is utilizing three crucial weapons in the project. The first is a specialized hydraulic vacuum process to remove the Lyngbya and dead material on the bottom while leaving the existing natural sediment in place.
The second element is to plant a specially developed native eel grass named “Rock Star”. The grass will be protected with special cages. Rock Star was cultivated by the University of Florida specifically for this project. The plan is to replace the Lyngbya and assist Rock Star in out-competing it. Rock Star eel grass has the ability to uptake dissolved nutrients in the water faster than the Lyngbya, enabling the growth of the eel grass to substantially exceed that of the Lyngbya.
The final critical stage of the project involves maintenance and protection as specifically designed protective cages will be positioned over the newly planted grasses. The grasses will be monitored and managed to allow them to take over their area. Unlike Lyngbya, Eel grass is a natural food for manatees, ducks, turtles and many other species. The restoration of the bay’s ecology is crucial for the future of the ever-growing manatee population that winters in the bay, according to SCR. The manatee will even be able to begin to nibble some of the grass when it grows beyond the wire of the protective cages. When the restoration is complete, all the animals will have healthy, native foods again.
“We believe this project is worthy of the support of everyone in Citrus County and the great state of Florida to guarantee clean water and revive one of its gems of the Nature Coast,” said SCR President Lisa Moore. “This is the first step in beginning to solve the problem that has destroyed the natural habitats of Kings Bay. SCR and our contractors have worked very hard to demonstrate to legislators this can be done and we appreciate their confidence in the plan by funding it. We especially want to thank our state Senator Charlie Dean, for his unrelenting efforts to make this project a reality. We also want to commend the efforts and support of Representative Jimmie T. Smith and so many others for providing invaluable assistance during the process. SCR is grateful to all those who believed in this project and supported it at all levels of government and throughout the community.”
Dean said this week, “Why I am excited about is that it is one of the best examples of private/government authorized programs to develop a strategy to help the environment. Nothing’s more precious than our water.”
Dean said he thought it was one of the “best of the best” models of goal setting and cooperation he had seen between such a group and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He said he liked the plan because it is a simple, direct focused project to remove what’s harming the bay and begin a recovery.
“I am excited for them and with them — I am a part of it. It’s the right thing to do. That’s my job.”
Smith said of SCR’s plan, “The Kings Bay restoration project is bound to be a State wide example of how community can work with the state to fix environmental issues. Bringing a clear focus on what is the right thing to do to ensure long term success and bring our waters back to what they used to be.”
The project is scheduled to begin approximately Sept. 15 and will be completed by the opening of manatee season, Nov. 15. Staging the equipment will occur first on the property leased for this project at the intersection of Bayshore Dr. and NE 2nd Court in Crystal River and then operations will be set up in the adjacent residential canals. Water removed with the Lyngbya and debris will be cleaned and returned to the canals. The extracted material will be used as fertilizer in agriculture.
“This is citizens working with private enterprise and government to get an important environmental project accomplished,” Moore said. “This is just the kind of public/private partnership that Governor Scott has championed,” she said and noted that Scott had specifically left the project in this year’s budget demonstrating his commitment and support of critical water projects like this one.
“The vision of SCR is to recreate the healthy ecosystem, one ideal for manatees, fish, crabs, native plants, and humans. We envision a restoration of the balance of the whole environment. We believe we will be successful and this project could be a model for similar restoration projects throughout Florida.”
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Media contact information:
Call Lisa Moore – 352-302-1004 or Steve Lamb – 352-302-0876 or Susan Wells – 321-543-1733