Striving to protect the
Nature Coast of Florida


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2019 Officers

Chuck Morton, President,
Shelly Brown, Vice President
Paula Morton, Secretary
Shirley Knotts, Treasurer

Meeting Schedule

Our March 12th program will be by K-9 Partners who work to provide service dogs for those who need them.

We meet in conjunction with the Weeki Wachee Crimewatch www.weekiwacheecrimewatch.org on the second Tuesday of each month alternating programs since many of us are in both groups. We have a pot luck dinner at 6 PM, meat provided, and a program at 7 PM. at the Weeki Wachee Area Club, 7442 Shoal Line Blvd. WEEKI WACHEE FL ( 1/2 mile south of CR 550 on Shoal Line)
It's a good way to come out and have some fellowship with your neighbors.

HELP does not meet during the summer since many of our members are away.

Don't forget those less fortunate. We support Jericho Road's efforts to help those in need. For a list of their needs scroll down to the bottom of the page.

The HERNANDO COUNTY LAND PROTECTORS Inc. (HELP) was established as a not-for-profit corporation on May 20, 1976 and is one of the oldest established environmental organizations in Hernando County, FL. Its overall objective is to promote and protect the environment of Hernando County, Florida lying west of US 19. This area includes a large variety of relatively unspoiled habitats for wildlife and the goal of HELP is to promote the preservation of these pristine wildlife habitats.

Hernando County is located on the West Coast of Florida due west of Orlando and is at the southernmost end of Florida's Nature Coast. The Weeki Wachee River is pretty much in the center of the north-south axis and is world famous because of the Mermaid attraction & water park which opened after WWII. The Weeki Wachee river begins at the spring at the junction of US 19 and State Rt. 50 and enters the Gulf of Mexico at Bayport approximately 8 miles downstream. The Weeki Wachee spring derives it's water from the Green swamp in central Florida somewhat north of the Tampa area. The river is 95% spring fed and does not rely from runoff as many rivers do. Obviously there is local runoff from the area west of US 19 so during periods of heavy rain the water may be tea colored, but most of the time the river is crystal clear, especially in it's upper stretches. A major factor of water clarity depends on the human usage which is increasing,especially on summer weekends.

We do not have the beaches so often associated with a persons vision of Florida, but rather saltwater marsh which is nursery area for many types of fishes and birds. Development in the area was minimal until the late 1960's but has been accelerating ever since.

U.S. Flag waving





Florida. Flag waving


On Dec 10, 2018 the river flow was 119 million gallons per day (185 cu ft/sec). We have had good rains this year so the flow rate is doing well.
There is a flow gage on the upper river, .62 miles west of US 19, that measures actual flow flow and it's data is available on this link http://waterdata.usgs.gov/fl/nwis/uv/?site_no=02310525&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060

Take this value of cubic feet per second and multiply it times 646,272 million gallons/day per cfs to get million gallons per day.
For example the 180 cfs times 646,272 = 116,328,896 million gallons per day.

In general we don't need to water our lawns because it's getting enough from rain.

The best way to conserve water is to cut back on outside watering. Switch to FLORIDA FRIENDLY LANDSCAPING since nearly 1/2 of our water is used for landscape watering.


Hernando County now has a Marine Mammal Rescue Team to assist marine mammals, and marine turtles, in distress. Brittany Hall-Scharff organized a training session for the 15 volunteers. If you see a marine mammal in distress notify FWC, Florida Fish and Wildlife, 888-404-3922. Give them as much information as possilbe and they will dispatch appropriate resources to assist.

2018 Funding

Continuing with our efforts to get folks involved with the environment, especially our youth we voted to fund Scubanauts with $1300 for expenses related to monitoring the new reefs and conducting an environmental study of what we have in our coastal waters.

We funded 4 Environmental Camps and assisted in the purchase of 4 tandem kayaks for the participants to use. They will also be constructing some more reef balls, probably the smaller "oyster Balls" which will be easier for them. We put up $2000 and that can be matched by other businesses. Someone has to take th first step!

As for the Sea Grass nursery that our Sea Grant agent, Britany Hall-Scharf, started last year at Gulf Coast Academy we ar continuing our support and putting up the funds for an new Black Needle Rush nursery there as well. Last years marsh grasses will be planted in late May at Linda Pederson park and surounding area.

We also funded signs for the correct disposal of Scallop shells to be put at the boat ramps. The moral of that story is please dispose of them properly, they are a valuable source of minrals, notably calcium carbonate. They also make an attractive ground cover in your flower beds.

All of this is made possible by all the work volunteers did to out on SWAMPFEST in March. The proceeds all go back to the community. Thanks to all who helped or attended SWAMPFEST.

Oyster Reef

In April 14, 2018 98 volunters moved 2400 mesh bags of oyster shells to a point off Rice Creek in Centepede Bay and constructed an oyster reef on a sand flat. Water depth is 18 inches to 5 Ft at a super high tide. The bags weigh about 20 pounds each and were filled over the last couple of months by more volunters from the area and as far away as Cedar Key and St. Petersburg

Oysters will attach to other oyster shells as well as rocks, pilings and yes to your boat!. Testing was done to determine the probability of successful recruitment and this area had a recruitment rate of 135 oysters on a 12 inch tile in 6 weeks. Each adult 3 inch oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day. They eat algae and plankton by filtering them out of the water.

Having this and other reefs we hope to build will hopefully prevent an algae bloom which could occur due to the elevated nitrogen levels in coastal rivers including the Weeki Wachee
The elevated nitrogen levels are a result of human activity, farming, excessive use of lawn fertilizer and the discahrge water from septic tanks and public utility systems. Unfortuantely even our "treated Water" is high in nitrogen and less than 20% is reused for irrigation.

Oyster reefs can help mitigate the potential for an algare bloom and the resulting fish kills that generally follow one. Additionally the reef will provide habitat for many types of marine life and will eventually be a fishing hot spot as it will attract pelagics such as redfish, tarpon and seatrout.

The bags are made of palm will and will biodegrade in 6 to 8 months so you don't need to worry about plastic pollution from them..


The cold snaps we have had in January 2018 dropped the gulf temperature into the upper 40's. This causes stress on sea turtles who become lethargic and will not be able to lift their heads to breathe. Cooperative efforts by Hernando Co. Waterways, our FL Grant agent (Brittnay Hall-Scharf), FWC, Hernando Sheriff's Marine unit and private citizens have been on the lookout or distressed and or dead turtles. We had 23 reports. Of these, 18 of the 23 were in need of rescue. Thursday (Jan. 25), 12 of them were released back in Gulf. Names of released turtles: Hubble, Galaxy, Intergalactic, Jet, Ophelia, November, Oscar, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, and Victor. All were green sea turtles.

No fatalities were reported.

Let's hope those extreme cold snaps are over.

At our May 2017 meeting we funded three projects a Marsh Grass nursery at Gulf Coast Academy, 4 Adventure camps where the participants will construct Reef Modules and provided funds for an underwater survey in conjunction with the University of Florida of our seagrasses, hard bottom and structures offshore.


The Hernando County Port Authority in conjunction with the Hernando Environmental Land Protectors will be seeking donations for the Artificial Reef program in order to get it underway. It's a situation of use them or loose them. Waiting for government grants is virtually futile, however if we are actively building reefs matching grants are easier to get. It's been almost 20 years that we have had proposed projects and nothing has happened. It's time we go ahead and do something.

At present we have permits for 3 new inshore reefs which will be within 6 nautical miles of shore and located in approximately 8 to 15 feet of water. These reefs are designed for providing transitional habitat for juvenile fish as they move offshore as well as snorkeling & fishing. Additionally they will also attract benthic (bottom dwelling) flora & fauna, resident species like sea bass, mangrove snapper, juvenile grouper, and pelagic (free swimming) species such as Sea Trout, cobia, redfish and Spanish mackerel. As an example of juvenile behavior: Grouper fry grow up in the salt marsh then move offshore to deeper waters as they mature. Without transitional habitat they are venerable to the pelagic species looking for a meal.

On our coastline there is not a lot of protective habitat for the juveniles to hide in as they transition offshore. The reefs we intend to build will provide that protective habitat for them and many other species. We will be utilizing pallet sized REEF BALLS which cost $250.00 each with 42 to 47 balls per reef arranged in groups from 1 to 3. In addition we have permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to construct some test modules of our own design. All deployments will be monitored, notably by the Scubanauts, and data analyzed by the University of Florida. We hope to make this an ongoing project with many more reefs in the future. Contributions may be made to the Hernando Environmental Land Protectors (HELP) in any size donation. A reef module costs $300 each but every little bit helps, no gift is too small so look for donation containers at marinas and elsewhere. Your spare change can change the ecology for the better.

If you wish to donate an entire ball we will put a dedication plaque on the module. You may wish to place a module down as a remembrance of a favorite person, living or dead. What a way to remember someone by going out to fish with them, except that now they are providing the habitat!

HELP’s address is:
Hernando Environmental Land Protectors
7404 Shoal Line Blvd.
Weeki Wachee FL 34607


SUMMER 2017: Cole Kolassa took it upom himself to kayak down the west coast of Florida from the panhandle to the Keys. Eventhough he as forced to stop at Everglades City due to damage to his kayak he raised over $3100 which was used to buy reef ball molds.

Through his effort other youth will be able to construct reef modules and have a vested interest in our offshore ecosystem.

Cole says he plans to complete the last leg of his trip over the Christmas holday. Cole has been one of the featured speakers at Nature Coast Biological Station, Crystal River Marine Science Station, Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), Mote Marine Laboratory and at Rookery Bay Reserve. Quite an accomplishment for a young man. He is an inspiration for all of us!

Click here to see more of

Cole's adventure

HELP funds Oyster research in Hernando County
In order to maintain the good water quality in nearshore waters, Hernando County is working on developing Oyster Reefs in nearshore areas. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day thereby removing aleas from the water before they can bloom and cause a problem. HELP donated $1000 start up money to the University of Florida for our Sea Grant Agent, Brittany Hall-Sharf, to have funds to get the program underway. This money can be used as a match for other grant money. For more information see
Oyster Research

Another bendfit of these nearshore oyster reefs is that they provide habitat for many species of juvenile fish and serve as an attractor for gamefish such as Redfish and Tarpon. These oysters do not need to reach the legal harvestable size of 3 inches to make an effective habitat. Providing shelter for small fish and crustaceans makes our waters more productive.

For more information look at Brittany's projects Click Here

WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS diving into the spring vents. Enjoy this video taken on 2015 of the tunnels under the Weeki Wachee area. Video of the Weeki Wachee springs tunnels. If you look real closee you will see the line that goes from the first diver back to the enrance. If the lights go out dark takes on a entirely new meaning. Panic kills - especially divers. These divers are amognst the best trained divers in the world and have multiple backup systems. They are using rebreathers, hence no bubbles from thier rigs, but they have spare tanks anyway.

BOTTLED WATER - an interseting twist!

water bottle

Do you know it takes twice as much water to make the plastic bottle as it holds. In other words a 16 OUNCE bottle requires 48 OUNCES of water to put it in your hands. Use reusable water containers and save yourself money and cut down on wasted water. See Pacific Institute website.

Also bottled water is generally unregulated, so you don't really know what is in it; municipal water supplies are.


swimming mermaid SWFWMD has a new website on the major springs in our area; there as a real nice video there too! Share it with your friends. SWFWMD Springs Website

Weeki Wachee Springs Lymbgia Removal Project.

A few years back, 2015, Veronica Craw and her team got an award for the project cleaning the Spring up and removing the lymbgia, an algae that resembles sea snot.

Notice how well you can see down into the spring in the photo on the right.

In addition removing the lymbgia there was a lot of debris removed as well. Over the years sand had covered up some of it and other stuff was simply there out of sight in crevasses.

There is a plan afoot to do another cleanout in 2018. Only time will tell if it gets done.

<<< Before project

After Project >>>


That's easy, US caught, right? Well yes as a general rule, but there are many ways of catching fish and many locations where they are caught.

Go to SEAFOOD WATCH a site on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's webpage. You can put in most any seafood you can hink of and it will bring up the best to worst choices, not only for your health, but as a sustainable fishery.

CHINSEGUT HILL, 171 years old!

Over the years since 1958 when the University of South Florida acquired by lease the manor house at Chinsegut Hill and 114 acres for a Conference and Retreat center the manor house has expericnced that ravages of time and in 2008 USF declined to continue its lease of the property. A group, the Friends of Chinsegut Hill, has been working dilligently to restore the property. They recently recieved a matching grant form the Felburn Foundation that will match dollar for dollar funds raised up to $50,000. In March of 2013 HELP donated $1,000 toward this effort.

For more information on Chinsegut Hill go to the Hernando Historical Museum's website www.hernandohistoricalmuseumassoc.com/chinsegut_history.html

Animated Stars

Partnership for Artificial Reef Development

Chuck Morton of the Hernando Environmental Land Protectors presents a Lowrance Elite-5 DSI Chart plotter/Sonar unit to George Bennett, David bland and Roy Link from Hernando County at the Port Authority meeting Jan 4, 2012.

This unit will be used by Hernando County waterways so they can more readily complete required underwater structure surveys in order to apply for Florida Fish and Wildlife grants funded by the Sportfish Restoration Fund. It came to light at the last Port Authority meeting that such a unit was needed, but funding was limited because of the tight funding situation at the county level. H.E.L.P. has historically funded research projects, environmental equipment purchases for schools, environmental impact studies, etc. so it was within their scope to assist Hernando County with this project. This unit is capable of rendering an image similar to a detailed 3-D drawing using sonar and indicating the exact position of each structure.

Hernando County has several artificial reefs, but has not been active in this area since 1993 because of the infamous Hernando Beach dredge project taking up most available funding. A 10 year plan for artificial reef development and enhancement was put into effect 2 years ago. Grant application has been stalled in a bureaucratic catch 22 situation that requires a survey of the location previous deployments in addition to other data. In short they want to know where the material we put down years ago is and its present condition. This unit will record images of the bottom structure and its location (Latitude and Longitude) on a computer chip enabling the required survey to be completed without having a diver go down and locate each individual structure item.

At present we are seeking to re-permit the Bendickson ( Tank) Reef and the reef Ball Reef so we can be eligible for the Sportfish Restoration Fund grants. This money comes from excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels and import duties; so we have already paid the money. We have to apply to get it back.

H.E.L.P. is proud to assist Hernando County with this project and wants to thank those who attended SWAMPFEST as that is the funding source for H.E.L.P.

We 've been invaded, actually wild hogs have been around since the Spaniards came in the 1500's, but seldom are seen in Weeki Wachee. This boar was hit just east of Weeki Wachee Estates on April 21, 2007. Now just 5 years later in 2012 it is a common occurance to see hogs of all sizes along our roads. Like all animals the little ones are cute, but they do grow up and are quite destructive to the native environment.

CYPRESS Mulch Request

PLEASE do not use CYPRESS MULCH. It is NOT termite resistant and our cypress trees are far too valuable to use for mulch. Without their canopy the swamps, which are recharge areas, can dry up.

Pine Straw makes just as good a mulch and it is renewable since the trees shed them all the time.

Home Depot, Lowes and Wal Mart are the main retailers of Cypress Mulch. Take time to write them or put a suggestion in their suggestion box for them to STOP selling it.

Click on these LINKS to go there.

U.S. Flag waving





Florida. Flag waving

Look at the crystal clear water of the Weeki Wachee headspring

Manatees like to rub on things like the swimrope

Manatee photos courtesy of John Athanason, Weeki Wachee Springs Waterpark

Jerichop Road's needs list