Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chassahowitzka gets a summer cleanup

Sitting with a Coke and a copy of Sports Illustrated, Jeb Steele looked out on the Chassahowitzka River and took a drag on his cigarette.

"This river is part of my daily routine," said Steele, 65, who lives a few blocks from the water.

"It's the old Florida look — the cypress trees, the moss, the laid-back community," he said on a day in late June.

Steele watched as divers vacuumed algae from the bottom of the Chassahowitzka — just north of the Hernando County border — as part of a cleanup being conducted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The work started in May and will end in September, before manatees seek refuge in the warm Florida water during winter months, said Philip Rhinesmith, senior environmental scientist with Swiftmud and the manager of the project.

"Who wants to have their kids walk out there and play on the beach surrounded by algae?" Rhinesmith said. "We need to get down to clean, white ground."

The water of the springs is a lens to a layer of suspended lyngbya algae, which have choked springs around the state and feed on sewage and other nutrient pollution, said Rhinesmith.

A healthy spring would foster eelgrass and other plants that attach with roots, he said, all food for manatees.

The name "Chassahowitzka" is a Seminole word meaning "place of the hanging pumpkins," conjuring an image of the river when American Indians lived on its banks and strung up gourds from the trees.

It's classified as an Outstanding Florida Water designation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In the 1992 letter proposing recognition for the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers, Carol Browner, former secretary of the DEP, wrote that the rivers and the surrounding land make up "one of the most important natural areas of the region."

She cited the mangrove swamps, saltwater marshes and the relatively undisturbed state of the rivers.

Some of the water's purity was destroyed by sewage leaks that spread from new homes to canals developed in the 1960s to connect with the river, Rhinesmith said. The accumulated sediment prompted Citrus County to ask Swiftmud to study the feasibility of a cleanup in 2005. Four years later, when the study was complete, the district hired consultants to design the project and help with permits. In 2012, Swiftmud got the funding, contributing about half the total, $772, 914, and drawing the rest from a state trust fund.

Project costs included everything from the asphalt used to contain dumpsters full of algae in the parking lot of the Chassahowitzka campground to the hiring of archaeologists who sort the American Indian pottery found by divers in the river, Rhinesmith said.

He emphasized that the campground and kayak rentals will run normally this summer.

"I want to have a minimal impact on the finances of everything here," he said. "This is a big undertaking. Hopefully by the end we'll have a place where kids can play.

Alison Barnwell can be reached at (352)754-6114 or abarnwell@tampabay.com.

Chassahowitzka gets a summer cleanup 07/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 5, 2013 6:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'We were lucky': Zephyrhills, Dade City get back to normal after Irma

    Hurricanes

    Two weeks after Hurricane Irma struck Florida, residents and city officials in eastern Pasco — hit harder than other areas of the county — are moving forward to regain normalcy.

    Edward F. Wood, 70, tugs at a branch to unload a pile of debris he and his wife picked up in their neighborhood, Lakeview in the Hills in Dade City.
  2. After Hurricane Irma, many ask: How safe are shelters?

    News

    NAPLES — Residents of the Naples Estates mobile home park beamed and cheered when President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott strolled amid piles of shredded aluminum three days after Hurricane Irma to buck up residents and hail the work of emergency responders. But almost nobody had anything good to say about …

    The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area opened its doors to anyone seeking temporary shelter during Hurricane Irma. Evacuees were housed in the Istaba multipurpose building and was quickly at capacity housing over 500 people. [Saturday, September 9, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  3. What you need to know for Thursday, Sept. 21

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    Aaron Richardson Jr. talks to voices in his head at his father's bail bond business in St. Petersburg July 22, 2017. Richardson has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was arrested for carjacking in 2011. He was declared incompetent to stand trial and moved between Florida State Hospital and Broward County Jail. While in custody he lost both his sight and hearing. He was released to his family in 2014 without an explanation. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]
  4. When elders are in peril, who do you call — 911 or Rick Scott's cell?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Twelve hours after Irma blasted through South Florida, conditions at Larkin Community Hospital in Hollywood were miserable.

    Police surround the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, on Sept. 13 in Hollywood. So far, nine deaths have been blamed on the incedent. [John McCall | South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  5. As spice incidents decline, Clearwater consultant suggests more coordinated services for street homeless

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — The actual number of homeless people living in downtown streets and parks is not growing, as it has appeared to some city officials and business owners over the past five months, a hired consultant concluded this week.

    Members of the homeless population wait in line before they are fed a meal near the Clearwater Police Department headquarters in June.  EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times