The Southwest Florida Water Management District restored portions of Chassahowitzka Springs by removing accumulated sediments, which improved the water quality and the bottom habitat for plants and animals.
Sand and organic materials have been transported by flows from residential canals and stormwater runoff to the springs and deposited on the bottom. These sediments have a negative effect on water clarity and water quality and have reduced the ability for aquatic plants to flourish in the springs.
The sediments were removed with a pump, much like the way a swimming pool vacuum works. The sand and water mixture moved through hoses to fabric bags where clear water filtered out leaving the sediments in the bags. The bags were then removed and the sediments will be used as a soil supplement on nearby private property.
As a result of the sediment removal, the project area is now two- to four-feet deeper and an estimated 500 pounds of phosphorous and 7,600 pounds of nitrogen were removed.
During the project, an archaeologist was on-site identifying culturally significant materials found, some dating back 12,000 years. Several significant items found include 16th Century Spanish pottery, Native American tools and paddles, and a 2,000-year-old Native American bowl ― the only one of its kind ever found intact in Florida. The artifacts will be catalogued by the Division of Historical Resources in Tallahassee and returned to the Citrus County Old Courthouse Heritage Museum for display.
The project began in May 2013 and was completed in October 2013. This project was an important first step in the restoration of the spring. Additional phases are being planned for 2014.
Because the Chassahowitzka Springs provide thermal refuge for the West Indian manatee during the winter, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service through the United States Army Corps of Engineers required the project be completed during the warmer months. This ensures the protection of this federally listed species.