My favorite river is in trouble. Kayaking has become all but impossible in many places due to an explosion of aquatic vegetation. Hydrilla is growing at a rate I haven’t seen in years, perhaps decades. Contemplating this every morning as I looked out over a river of grass and weeds was putting me in a major funk, so I contacted SWFWMD staff about my concerns. Though I have a real problem with the politics of the Water Management’s Governing Board, which seems to be overly protective of developers, my experience with staff has always been very positive and this time was no exception. I mean what’s not to like about a guy, Mark Fulkerson, (Senior Engineer for Water Resources) who will give up his holiday morning to come and sit on my front porch for several hours discussing the problems of the river! Brian Nelson’s response was also more than I could have hoped for. Brian is Vegetative Management manager for SWFWMD, and is used to years of emails from me regarding river changes and vegetation issues. He responded this time by taking a closer look at this section of the river by airboat, and in a lengthy phone call reported back on what he had found.
I am still processing the wealth of information that was shared with me, and reassessing some of my pet theories about the causes of what is occurring. The Withlacoochee is a very complex system involving not only the river but Lake Panasoffkee and the Tsala Apopka Lakes, all of which have been altered by water control structures and the conflicting demands of man and nature. Solving the problems of the Withlacoochee makes solving the problems of our spring fed rivers on the west side of the county seem like child’s play by comparison! Personally the rabid environmentalist that still lives in my inner soul would like to see all structures torn out and let nature take it’s course. The realist in me realizes that this is an impossible dream! Nonetheless it does help to know that we do have good people at SWFWMD who are trying to find answers and solutions to these complex issues. Stay tuned.