Paddling down the calm flows of the Chassahowitzka River, you might come across a barge humming with machinery.
All seems calm on the surface to the casual boater floating nearby. But in the depths below the water line, divers are hard at work restoring a portion of the treasured waterway in Citrus County.
Workers are removing sediments that have accumulated in the springs. It’s part of the District’s Chassahowitzka Springs Restoration Project.
Sand and organic materials have made their way into the bottom of the springs from residential canals and stormwater runoff. These sediments have hada negative effect on water clarity and quality and reduced the ability for aquatic plants to flourish in the springs.
Divers use a pump that works much like a swimming pool vacuum. The sand and water mixture is sucked up through hoses to fabric bags the size of garbage dumpsters. The sediments remain in the bags while clear water filters out. That clean water flows back into the springs. The bags are hauled off site and used as a soil supplement on nearby private property.
“This will result in better water quality, better aesthetic value and hopefully more recreational potential for the springs,” said restoration project manager Philip Rhinesmith. A district video gives a firsthand look at the restoration project.
The Chassahowitzka campground, boat ramp and general store will remain open during the restoration project, so people will still have access to recreation like kayaking. The project started in May and is expected to be completed by September 2013 because the springs provide thermal refuge for the West Indian manatee during the winter. This will ensure the protection of this federally listed species.
During this removal process, the District also is working with an archaeologist to identify and evaluate any culturally significant materials found. Once identified, the artifacts will be documented and catalogued by the Division of Historical Resources in Tallahassee and then returned to Citrus County for display.
This project is part of the District’s ongoing effort to protect and restore area springs. To learn more about this project or any other project by the District’s Springs Team, visit WaterMatters.org/Springs.