Save Crystal River aims to restore a whole lot of the area at the edge of Kings Bay within the next five years, . The goal is 92.4 acres.
How Big a Goal?
How big is 92.4 acres? The answer: about 70 football fields. We might have to think about huge spaces like this if we were going to make Citrus County into a major sports complex, a place where athletes from around the world could come to train and improve their skills, But what if all that was under water? And what if we what wanted was a place where fish, and manatees, and otters, turtles, birds and people all lived together?
Ninety one acres may seem like an odd number, and it is, but it really makes sense. This 92.4 acres is the area within the City of Crystal River and Citrus County that consists of coves and canals which are under the control of those governments. This special status makes them perfect cases for restoration, because they are more protected. The source of spring flows is deep in the canals and headwaters surrounding the bay, and practically speaking, it makes practical sense to clean and restore those areas first.
How Does it Work?
When Save Crystal River restores an area, we take some important ideas into account. First and foremost, where is the water coming from? Citrus County has First Magnitude (1) springs, which (according to SWFWMD) discharge of 64.6 million gallons per day or more. By working near the locations of these spring flows, we gain a number of benefits:
- The springs themselves keep restored areas clean. The heavy water flow from the springs, and it is increased due to vents and boils that are unclogged during “muck removal”. The muck acts like a dam to keep unwanted algae away from cleaned areas.
- These are high impact, high visibility areas. We are establishing methods that can be replicated to help restore areas anywhere. We want this work to have a significant exposure. Exposure comes from both high residential populations near the springs and a steady flow of visitors who enjoy our waters.
- Small areas are easier to manage. We store our cleanup equipment on property near the water. Ongoing maintenance and studies after planting are achieved at a lower expense because our work areas are near the waters where we work.
- Finally a beautiful bay is a significant economic impact. We see manatees feeding on vast fields of grass. Visitors enjoying seeing manatees and other marine life, fishing, and enjoying the waters. This work benefits the hospitality and tourism industry and increases demand for all sorts of local products and services. The Bay adds hundreds of millions of dollars of annual economic impact for the county.
Save Crystal River is as good for the local economy as it is for the environment
Going Into High Gear
We’re now running at a rate of about 9 -11 acres per year, at a cost of $5-6 million. We finished planting 15.45 acres through the end of 2017. Remember, that included removing all the material from the bottom (as much as 6 feet thick), then planting. This is followed by protecting with cages and then maintaining and monitoring the area for the next year. The Lyngbya is not all “gone” in the first year, but if we stay at it, spot cleaning for several years, we will eventually get it fully under control. We are committed so that the project remains sustainable, gets a good start, and the grasses can expand on its own.
Our plantings from 2015 are not only established, and spreading to new areas every day, but they are flowering and reseeding themselves with the tides. Large areas where there was no grass before, and no grass was planted, now have meadows of grass. In the next few years, we want to finish out the 90 acres we originally envisioned. We have about 11 acres in our sights, targeted and paid for in 2018.
Our goals beyond 2018 are:
- Continue to gain funding of $5 million per year, both from the Florida Legislature and the DEP Springs Restoration initiative. We are seeking other funding from private philanthropic organizations too.
- Advancing knowledge through science. The entire project is based on the best science available. We continue to engage with experts in spring flow, fresh water ecology, measurement, geographic information systems (for tracking and even letting boaters know where we are working) and a variety of other related fields.
- Provide outreach to the local community, its schools and leaders, who we want to continuously engage, keeping the focus on our project clear. For the past 2 years we have partnered with Duke Energy to provide a year-long, hands-on experience to all students at Crystal River Primary School on the value of protecting the environment.
In the map below you can see which areas still need to be finished. We are working hard to find the funding so we can keep to our goal of finishing these areas by July 2, 2023 when it is the centennial anniversary of Crystal River. Once that goal is met, we hope to turn our sights to the remaining canals to the northwest of the bay and then ultimately the bay itself. We invite to you continue to follow our progress and help us in meeting these goals. Together we can Save Crystal River.