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Work Begins on Dredging Project

Posted on October 5, 2015

Gator Dredging has begun work on a cleanup project proponents hope will serve as a primer for the eventual removal of a stubborn, noxious algae and other muck covering the sandy bottom of King’s Bay and its canals.

Crews from the company have been busy since Monday slurping yards of Lyngbya and other dead vegetation from two canals through two giant dredging systems designed to sift through the trash and then pump the filtered water back into the bay. The system employs a pond where the water is temporarily kept and then, via giant hoses also called geo-filters, the water is cleansed and recycled into the bay. The trash and the Lyngbya will eventually be moved to a dumping site, where it will be repurposed as fertilizer for farmers. Gator Dredging has 14 workers at the site and is currently removing about 200 cubic yards of Lyngbya and other detritus daily. After the cleanup, 350 cages of eelgrass will be placed along the canal bottoms until it is established. The pilot project is operating in adjacent canals directly behind the Crystal River Post Office.

The crews also are trying to get the designated project area in sparkling shape by the start of manatee season on Nov. 15.

“It’s a quick turnaround, but, yes, we should be able to get it done by the time the manatees return to the area,” said Jack Adams, co-owner of Gator Dredging.

“I think the project will make a difference for the environment and the community after we are finished. We designed a good technology plan for the cleanup and we will be perfecting our methods as we move along. In about two weeks, we would have a better handle on some of the changes we may want to make to our method, but things are going well right now,” Adams said.

He said the bay’s sedimentary topography (rocky limestone) and the large volume of Lyngbya present make this project different from any of the company’s previous jobs, including at Stevenson Creek near Clearwater.

“At Stevenson Creek we were downstream from a golf course. So, we dealt with a lot golf balls and there was less Lyngbya. No golf balls here, but we are dealing with a lot of rocks and more Lyngbya,” Adams added.

Lisa Moore, president of Save Crystal River Inc., the nonprofit group that commissioned the state-funded, $1.6 million pilot project, said she is “very excited” that the project is underway.

“The process they (Gator Dredging) are using is great. They will remove all the Lyngbya, the detrital material and the water, which has very little oxygen because of the Lyngbya. When the water is brought back, it will be cleaner and it will be re-oxygenated which will help the Rock Star (eelgrass) plants that Sea and Shoreline will be planting in the areas that have been cleaned,” Moore said.

Sea and Shoreline, an aquatic restoration company, will be revegetating the cleanup area with eelgrass protected by cages. Moore said the cages will deter manatees from grazing on the plants for a year. She said the 12-month period will allow the plants to both mature and develop a resilient root system, which is essential to their long-term survival.

“Our hope is that this project will serve as a model and this is just the beginning. We hope to continue this process until all our canals and the entire bay is restored,” Moore said.

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