The Weeki Wachee River has been a frequent subject of discussion in recent years, primarily due to its popularity. The number of people visiting the river, usually on watercraft has raised concerns of safety, damage to the riverbanks, litter, and harm to wildlife.
Based on these discussions, a Carrying Capacity Study agreement was signed between Hernando County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), each paying $125,000 to conduct the study, which is to begin on June 1, 2018 and conclude in December 2019.
During this time, data will be collected about the amount and types of vessels on the river, and their effects on the natural landscape, sedimentation, The study aims to determine the recreational carrying capacity of the main headspring and river that would allow the maximum level of public access and recreational enjoyment while preventing damage to the river bottom and shoreline, impacts to wildlife or hindrances to wildlife access.
At the regular meeting on May 22, 2018, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted unanimously to approve the agreement. Although the money marked for the study from the Quality of Life and Sensitive Land funds were moved into county reserves that morning, the board expressed their confidence in paying for the study.
Commissioner John Allocco emphasized the importance of the research. “We’re going to have to figure out how to pay for it. If we don’t, we’re putting the county at risk for losing the funds to address the river,” Allocco said the stall could ultimately decrease tourism dollars and people coming to Hernando County.
This project will be broken into two phases. The first phase entails the development of the methodology for the capacity including estimated cost. SWFWMD is funding this phase. Phase 2 is the actual study, which includes an ecologically based carrying capacity study to evaluate the effects on the natural systems of the Weeki Wachee River.