The Issue: River Restoration Project Awarded Almost $2 Million
Our Opinion: Another Well-Deserved Step For Environmental Restoration
The Rainbow River was designated an Outstanding Florida Waterway (OFW) in 1987. This was years before the current sad state of this environmentally endangered body of water, a river choked with invasive vegetation and algae that put a stranglehold on eelgrass and other native species helping to maintain the river’s purity.
Arguably, that OFW designation might not have been considered for the river in 2023 since specific criteria are used to designate bodies of water. These criteria include exceptional water quality that not only exceeds state standards but has excellent clarity and low levels of pollutants. Unfortunately, the Rainbow River has been bombarded with contaminants that have impacted this formerly pristine river.
The river is formed from the outflow of Rainbow Springs, a group of vents just north of Dunnellon. This first magnitude spring pours out hundreds of millions of gallons of crystalline fresh water daily. Sadly, this water is strangled by nitrogen downstream and deadly algae impurities that have overrun that portion of the river and have moved north toward the springs.
The state legislature stepped up this year and awarded $1.8 million for restoration efforts to begin in the river. The funds became available this month, and this project is just one of many recent environmental endeavors fueled by citizen-led groups.
The first such group in our area, Save Crystal River (SCR), drew up the blueprint for several other environmental groups to follow when SCR focused on restoring Kings Bay beginning about eight years ago. Since then, more than 80 acres have been cleaned of the nasty algae, Lyngbya, that overran the Bay and killed natural vegetation that oxygenated the water and kept its clarity.
One-Rake-At-A-Time is the group shepherding the Rainbow River project. The group’s president, Art Jones, said that Sea & Shoreline – the aquatic restoration firm used by SCR and other environmental groups – will begin vacuuming the river in the fall. Vacuuming will suck up dead vegetation and lyngbya so that eelgrass can be planted to help restore the river’s original quality.
Jones told the Chronicle’s editorial board that this is a five-year project that will begin cleanup efforts in the dirtiest parts of the river, the lower river in the Dunnellon area. “We’re very thankful to the governor and the legislature,” he said. He also said that the group will be pursuing additional funding during next year’s legislative session.
The Chronicle also applauds state government for providing money for this important environmental restoration project. Along with SCR and the Homosassa River Restoration Project, One Rake At A Time is focused on environmental cleansing efforts and we feel these grass roots organizations are making a positive impact in our waterways here on the Nature Coast.