Striving to protect the
Nature Coast of Florida


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2017 Officers

Chuck Morton, President,
Laura Knickelbein, Vice President
Paula Morton, Secretary
Shirley Knotts, Treasurer

Meeting Schedule

We meet in conjunction with the Weeki Wachee Crimewatch www.weekiwacheecrimewatch.org on the second Tuesday of each month alternating programs simce many of us are in both groups. We have a pot luck dinner at 6 PM, meat provided, and a program at 7 PM. 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.

At our may 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 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


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 $250 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.


On Sept 24, 2017 ( 9 days after hurricane IRMA) the river flow was 203 cubic feet per second or 131.193 Million gallons per day. There is still significant runoff from the 9 inches of rain that fell in the area: Actually the Withlacoochee River is way above flood stage in the northeastern part of the county. This is due to surface runoff from the Green Swamp. The Weeki Wahee river will benefit by the recharge of the acquifer.

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 is cool and the grass is in a semi hibernation state.

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.

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.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied - The Chassahowitzka and Homosassa MFL Saga Continues
Brad W. Rimbey, P.E.

On February 28, 2013, SWFWMD the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) adopted Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL) rules that would allow the continued degradation of water quantity and water quality in the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Rivers. On March 28, 2013, a group of concerned Floridians, including me, petitioned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for a hearing before FDEP Secretary Herschel Vineyard pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 373.114(2) to present evidence and argument as to why the MFLs are not consistent with Florida law and State Water Policy.

The hearing was necessitated because SWFWMD ignored the Outstanding Florida Waters (OFW) designation of the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Rivers in their MFL studies. From their January 5, 1993 designation as OFWs forward, Florida and Federal law require water quality in the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Rivers to be protected against degradation.

It took nearly six months for FDEP to schedule the petitioned hearing. The hearing was held on September 10, 2013 at SWFWMD‘s headquarters. Attorney John Thomas represented the petioners at the hearing. Contrary to the requirements of Section 373.114(2) F.S., Secretary Vineyard did not appear at the hearing though the hearing was properly noticed and the Secretary’s presence was not optional.

In Mr. Vineyard’s absence, FDEP’s Francine Ffolkes, Esq. presided. Ms. Ffolkes made it clear from the outset that she had no intention of conducting the hearing in a manner consistent with the basic due process normal to evidentiary hearings. Nonetheless, FDEP repeatedly assured the hearing petitioners that Secretary Vineyard would at least render a final determination and that determination would be published in the Florida Administrative Register.

On March 14, 2014, after six months had passed with no final determination from FDEP, the hearing petitioners filed a Demand for Determination. Another month has passed and FDEP and SWFWMD remain mute.

The issue before FDEP is simple. Rule 62-302.700(1) states “It shall be the Department (FDEP) policy to afford the highest protection to Outstanding Florida Waters and Outstanding National Resource Waters. No degradation of water quality, other than that allowed in subsections 62-4.242(2) and (3), F.A.C., is to be permitted in Outstanding Florida Waters and Outstanding National Resource Waters, respectively, notwithstanding any other Department rules that allow water quality lowering.” There is nothing in 62-302.700(1), F.A.C. that allows SWFWMD, FDEP, or any other State agency to permanently degrade the water quality of an OFW by reducing flow via MFL rule-making or any other rule-making for that matter.

However, SWFWMD contends OFW designation is not relevant to their decision to issue pumping permits that will reduce freshwater flow to these spring-fed rivers. Reducing spring flow allows saltwater to replace freshwater in these coastal rivers and accelerates the algal growth which has now put these rivers on the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 303(d) impaired waters list for nutrient imbalance.

FDEP is currently in the process of setting Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) to address nutrient pollution in these rivers. TMDLs are required by the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) because FDEP has verified nutrient impairment of these rivers as evidenced by massive algal mats. Both SWFWMD and FDEP acknowlege that reduced flows increase algal mat impairment. However, FDEP prefers to use the term “increased residence time” to muddy the clear connection between the reduced flows permitted by SWFWMD and the CWA nutrient impairment violations.

It is time to quit playing games with semantics and get down to the business of actually affording “the highest protection to Outstanding Florida Waters.” Florida’s continued attempts to treat water quantity and water quality as if they are not related is pathetic and illegal. This inept policy of ignoring water quality degradation caused by groundwater withdrawals has contributed to the demise of many (if not all) of Florida’s most statutorily protected waters - our Outstanding Florida Waters.

Let’s hear it Secretary Vineyard. Put your defense of FDEP’s failed water management policy in writing. Perhaps the 60 some odd dolphins and 120 federally protected manatees that died from pollution exposure in the Indian River OFW last summer has given you pause. We are given to wonder, what part of “no degradation of water quality” FDEP is having trouble understanding. We can be patient if we are waiting for a plan to correct FDEP’s failed policy, but justice will prevail. Let’s get on with it.

Brad W. Rimbey
Spokesman, Chassahowitzka River Restoration Committee
Director, Homosassa River Alliance
Director, Withlacoochee Area Residents


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

Crystal River Power Plant

DeeVon Quirolo spoke with us at our March 2014 meeting about concerns that generators #1 & 2 at the Crystal River Power Plant are polluting more than the allowed amounts. She represents the Sunhsine State Clean Energy Coaliion and they are urging Duke Power to invest in solar power at the site. These two units were scheduled to go off line in 2013, but have extensions until 2015.

There is a possibility that units 1 and 2 could be converted to natural gas and while this is better than the old technology coal it is still using a mostly non renewable resource. I say mostly becasue we can produce natural gas from sewer plants, garbage and farming operations line dairies & feedlots; it's all a matter of cost. Generators 1 & 2 were built in the 1960-s and went on line in 1966 and 1969 respectively. They are "old" technology and are rated at 373 and 469 megawatts. By comparison in 8 states that Duke Power operates in only a total of 140 megawatts of power is generated. 140 Megawatts is approximatley the power for 20 thousand homes at peak. Power plants have to be figured at peak demand, that's why commercial power is sold on a peak basis. Click here for Duke power's website

Generators 4 & 5 went on line in 1982 and 1984 and product 717 megawatts each using a newer technology. All of these generators 1, 2, 4 & 5 are coal burning units. Generator #3 which was nuclear is shut down now and produced 842 megawatts. You can see that it takes a lot of Solar generation to make up for these plants.

We all know that power plant construction is not done overnight so what can you do to reduce the pollution? A solar hot water heater is certainly feasable here in Florida and hot water is a major source of electricity usage. Living a bit warmer in the summer ( say 78 degrees) and a bit cooler in the winter (68 to 70 degrees) will reduce electricity demand and save money.

If you wanted to get real fancy you could put in solar lighting and some DC outlets to run your electronic's, most of it is reduced from 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC these days. That requires battery banks to carry you over when the sun isn't shining. For example, my sailboat runs on solar power for 95% of the electrical use. The engine does generate power, but it's not used very much.

If we reduce our demand for power, we will save money and the power companies will take the less efficient units off line.

Another source of "Clean Energy" that is kicked around a lot these days in Wind Energy. Wind has the advantage over solar in that it can be generated as AC power which is easier to transmit over distance. DC power is best used on site as it is more succeptable to "line loss". The wind does blow at night, but as we all know it is not constant so power is only generated when the wind is blowing over 10 knots.

Remember the hydroelectric power plants that were built from 1930 on? There is still a lot of "hydro" potential that goes untapped. Water runs downhill and it can be used over and over again. In know of medium sized package power plants on the Ohio river that generate power silently and efficiently.

Just think of the power potential of the tide going into and out of Tampa Bay. It is possibly to get over 1500 watts out of every square foot of flow with 1 foot of drop. Figure a 2 foot tide in Tampa bay and you can immagine the power potential avaialble. No it's not cheap to build, but it is safe and non poluting.

Want to learn more about "Green energy" Here is a neat website Siemens group.

Chuck Morton


May 2012
Silver Springs, so called sister spring of Weeki Wachee Springs, in down in it's flow from 516 million gallons per day to under 123 million gallons per day. At the present rate of permitting water use from the aquifer there it is projected that Silver Spings will join White Spring and many others that have stopped flowing in less that 2 years, mid 2014. (See letter to Governor Scott on the Issues page)

There is a permit application in, which will probalby get railroaded through, for a cattle operation in the Ocala Area to withdraw 19 million gallons per day. According to former Governor and Senator Bob Graham who was also a cattleman ther is no way that much water is needed. Cattle operations can use reclaimed water quite well. This is not a feedlot operation, but an open range operation with the beef to be shipped to Switzerland by its Canadian owner. The water is supposedly for irrigating pastures That is more water than the city of Ocala uses in total..

This is happening all over the State. A big part of the problem is that inaccurate data in used in water use models. A rainfall of 60 inches per year is being used for Florida and we have not had that much annual rainfall in over 15 years. Apparently pressure from politicians prevents the corrrect cata from being used. Jobs are being cut at the water managment districts and if someone doesn't "play ball" they are out of a job.

April 30, 2014 --- update-- the State has a 1.2 Billion dollar surplus, but cut back the Springs restoration budget from 80 million to maybe 20 million dollars. It is estimated it would take $122 million to get the Springs Restoration project off to a good start. It seems our politicians don't drink water.

As I, Chuck Morton, have said many times before, "Florida - water = Arizona". We must use our water responsibly.

Animated Stars

On April 10, 2012 Sonny Vergara gave us an very informative presentation on the history of Water Managment in Florida and attempts from Tallahassee to take the control from the local citizens and shift it to Tallahassee.
His website http://swfwmdmatters.blogspot.com/ is very informative and I encourage you to check in often.

Sonny is an accomplished nature photographer and there are fabulous photos on his site as well.

The time will come when we must stand up for our rights or else we will surely loose them. It is extremely important for each citizen to make his / her views known to his / her representatives.

Another organizaton that is working on protecting Florida for the future is the Florida Conservation Coalition. Visit their website at http://floridaconservationcoalition.org/ and sign up for the updates. It's free, and your numbers count.

Weeki Wachee Springs Lymbgia Removal Project.

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.

<<< 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, 166 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