Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chassahowitzka restoration project makes water more habitable, turns up numerous relics


A prehistoric stone bowl, dozens of old bottles, a corroded cap pistol from the 1940s, discarded car tires, a shard from a 15th century Spanish ceramic plate.

Divers working on a restoration project at Chassahowitzka Springs over the summer never knew what they were going to find and bring to the surface.

The vast trove of treasures and trash — either tossed or lost — was on public display Wednesday at the Chassahowitzka River Campground as officials from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and other state environmental agencies presented a wrap-up of the first phase of a water quality improvement project intended to rid the spring of noxious algae and make it more habitable for wildlife.

"Judging from the clarity of the water, I'd say the project was a huge success," said Philip Rhinesmith, senior environmental scientist with Swiftmud and the manager of the project. "Anyone who visits the spring is going to notice a big difference."

The five-month restoration project along the coastal boarder between Citrus and Hernando counties, for which Swiftmud paid $772,000, sought to undo decades of accumulated pollution caused by street runoff and leaking septic systems. Over time, the accumulation of sediment had a negative effect on water clarity and quality and fueled the spread of lyngbya algae, an exotic plant that chokes out beneficial plants such as eel grass.

Using a low-suction vacuum dredge, work crews soured the bottom, removing tons of lyngbya and approximately 3,000 cubic yards of material containing 7,600 pounds of nitrogen and 500 pounds of phosphorus.

In the long run, the project's big winner will be underwater wildlife, including manatees, which frequent the historic spring during the winter months to feed on eel grass and other aquatic plants. Rhinesmith said that the remaining stages of the restoration will include the replanting of eel grass, which likely will prevent the further intrusion of lyngbya.

"The hope is that as we continue working toward limiting what goes into the spring, nature will take over and keep it clean," Rhinesmith said.

The historic spring, one of five first-magnitude spring groups in the water management district, is named for a Seminole word meaning "place of the hanging pumpkins" and is a favorite destination for sport fishermen, kayakers and canoers, and others who enjoy its scenic surroundings.

However, Swiftmud executive director Robert Beltran said that the recovered artifacts, which will be turned over to Citrus County, are proof that the area has been a lure to visitors long before civilization came along. Among the finds: primitive arrowheads and a bone-rendered fish hook estimated to be between 2,000 and 6,000 years old,

"This spring and others like it around Florida are rare environmental gems," Beltran said. "It is so important that we do all we can now to preserve them for future generations."

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

Chassahowitzka restoration project makes water more habitable, turns up numerous relics 11/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  2. Mexico anxiously awaits the fate of a 12-year-old schoolgirl after deadly earthquake


    MEXICO CITY — A sprawling earthquake recovery effort spanning several states turned intensely personal Thursday as Mexicans were riveted by an effort to save a 12-year-old girl who was pinned in the rubble of her elementary school.

    Search and rescue efforts continue at the Enrique Rebsamen school in Mexico City, Mexico, Thursday. Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 200 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. ]AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell]
  3. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  4. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]