How to save the river and prevent future poisonings
According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (SWFWMD) website “the Rainbow Springs springshed, which contributes groundwater to Rainbow Springs, is approximately 735 square miles of mostly agricultural lands, forested uplands and growing urban areas. This springshed covers portions of Alachua, Levy and Marion counties.” Additionally, Rainbow River suffers from one of the highest nitrate levels for springs in this region. This leads to decreased water-quality, increased algae and invasive species, and decrease in the health of the whole ecosystem including the animals and insects that rely on the water.
Due to the increase in invasive species strangling the waterway, regular herbicides have been applied to the river. However, poisoning Hydrilla has had minimal success and harmed other parts of the ecosystem. The herbicides used on the Rainbow River include Diaquat, Fluridone and Endotholl which leaves behind plastic polymer jellies. The dead plants then fall to the bottom where they are left to decompose causing a thick muck to build up and smother the plants. Without plants producing oxygen, Lyngbya, a filamentous algae, moves in further blanketing the area in thick mats of smelly and potentially toxic algae.
This restoration effort will follow the Kings Bay Restoration Project model to remove the muck and replant native submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). See the steps below to learn how we can accomplish this monumental task and ensure the river remains healthy for generations to come.
Divers carefully hand vacuum detrital material and muck off the river bottom. This allows them to ensure only the bad stuff is taken and the good sandy bottom is left intact so plants can grow and thrive.
Divers will periodically monitor the restoration areas to ensure the plants have the best chance at survival. Any muck or algae that washes in will be removed to prevent it from smothering the plants. This will be done for three years.
This muck on the bottom can be several inches thick to several feet thick is removed which prepares the bottom for replanting. Plants will be cultivated in Sea & Shorelines inland aquatic nursery which is the largest aquatic nursery in the world! This means plants are not just taken from one waterbody and planted in another through what is called wild harvest. A variety of methods will be used to install these native plants including plants in biodegradable peat pots and small little pellets containing a single plant. The method chosen will be the one that is best for that water depth and river condition.