By LISA MACNEIL
At the Jan. 28, 2020 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, the county voted 4-0 to approve the license agreement between the county and Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) for the Weeki Wachee River dredging project. If funding is approved, dredging could begin in the spring of 2021. Commissioner Jeff Holcomb was absent during this meeting.
A short presentation was given by SWFWMD representatives Jenny Hagberg, Chief Professional Engineer and Manager of SWIM ( Surface Water Improvement and Management) and Frank Gargano – Government Affairs Regional Manager. The purpose of the presentation and vote on this day was to explain the temporary use of certain parcels and areas in the project region that will be needed to complete the intended dredging.
Hagberg explained that sedimentation has become an environmental problem. “It’s smothering beneficial submerged aquatic vegetation. It’s reducing habitat for fish and it’s also affecting manatee passage.” Dredging is expected to restore habitats and allow greater areas for manatees to navigate.
The dredging will take place in the area of Weeki Wachee Gardens, along about 1.6 miles of the river, downstream from Shoal Line Boulevard. The intended depth of the hydraulic dredge is described as 5 feet below average low-tide. The channel width is about 20 feet, and there will be no dredging where rock is encountered.
Rogers Park will be needed for storage and access of the dredge barge, and also to store materials. SWFWMD will coordinate with the county to identify necessary locations, and to make sure properties are protected. It is not known at this time if Rogers Park will be closed while the dredging in that area is performed.