Removing Lyngbya from Weeki Wachee

[USA] Spring Hill Central Rotary and Brooksville Rotary started a program at Weeki Wachee to keep an algae called lyngbya under control. The algae has the potential to actually restrict water flow in a spring essentially stifling it. They work with SWFWMD for guidance on which areas to remove the harmful algae from.

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Not only could it potentially clog the spring, it also forms floating mats which prevent light from reaching the beneficial eel grass below. It frequently entangles within and directly over the grass, smothering it. Additionally, runoff from surrounding properties contribute to the growth of lyngbya especially since there is not a whole lot of eel grass to utilize the extra nutrients that flow into the water.

According to the University of Florida, it is non native to Florida and can be transferred between areas by animals and high wind events. Boats can also transfer the lyngbya from place to place when it attaches to the hull. Lyngbya has been a problem in the Rainbow River as well as Kings Bay in Crystal River. Lyngbya has no nutritional value for manatees.

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Toby Brewer, explained that a lyngbya clean up is kind of like dusting your house, if you don’t keep up with it, it will get worse. Art Jones, Past President of Kings Bay Rotary decided to help with Citrus County’s lyngbya issues in Kings Bay and created a lyngbya clean up program called One Rake at at Time. The program has gradually expanded. Doug Brainard of Spring Hill Central Rotary explained that they got the idea from Jones’ program.

Brainard said that the next step of the project here is to build a greenhouse to propagate eel grass so they can plant it in the river. The thought is that this will help to reduce the lyngbya problem, since extra nutrients from runoff will be utilized by the eel grass, and less will be available to the lyngbya. At one point several years ago the eel grass was removed in the river and around the spring which has had an effect.

Alison Pager, Trevison Clark, and Kaycee Steinman from Hernando High School Interact Club, a rotary organization for high schoolers, are frequent volunteers. For them it is a fun way to make a difference and gain valuable community service hours.

Larry and Deborah Van Fossen from Brooksville Rotary also enjoy the time they spend on the Weeki Wachee. Larry came prepared with his mask and snorkel, ready to collect lyngbya from the river bed. “It’s a fun deal… That’s the best part about this, you get to be in the river, free admission, and get to go where the river people don’t get to go all the time,” Larry explained. “And you get to pick up slime!” Deborah laughed.

A rake, a big onion bag and gloves are provided to collect the lyngbya. Some worked in pairs, while others went off with their mask and snorkel to remove submerged lyngbya. Water shoes are recommended. If you do not wish to get in the water, you can always help carry the bags to the trailer to be hauled away. A wounded warriors dive group regularly volunteers with this project to remove the algae from the springs. At one particular clean-up this year, they removed over 2000 lbs of lyngbya.

While the volunteers collected the algae, rotary members were busy preparing a wonderful brunch for the volunteers. Good food, a beautiful river, and making a difference- what more could you ask for on a Saturday morning?

For every month until the weather gets too cold, they have a clean up scheduled. They alternate between the springs and the river. Here is the schedule for the rest of the summer: 8/15 5:30pm Springs, 9/19 8:00am River, 10/17 5:30pm Springs. If you are a new volunteer you need to arrive 15 minutes prior to the clean up start time. To volunteer contact Toby Brewer at: [email protected]

 

View original article at: Removing Lyngbya from Weeki Wachee

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