CRYSTAL RIVER, Florida – Crystal River is known for its incredible waterways, but for years it has fallen short of its name and reputation.
That is until the people who live there took action.
People like Lisa Moore, president of the all-volunteer nonprofit Save Crystal River.
As a native of Crystal River, she knows what the river should look like, but when the ‘nameless storm’ of 1993 roared through the salt water, it killed hydrilla, an invasive plant that sheltered the river.
“When it killed all of the hydrilla it went to the bottom and over a period of years it rotted and an invasive algae, a blue-green algae called lyngbya, took hold in the area and covered everything.” Moore said.
Lyngbya is bad news for the ecosystem.
“It’s really nasty, nasty and as the main producer we have seen a pretty nasty drop in water quality throughout the system,” said Ryan Brushwood, head of biology at Sea and Shoreline.
This drop in water quality has affected manatees, dolphins and anything that could thrive in between.
This detriment is what brought him closer to Moore.
As president of Save Crystal River, she sought out a team to help with recovery efforts six years ago.
“Switching a system from an algae-dominated system to a plant-dominated system is the holy grail of a marine biologist or a restoration biologist,” Brushwood said.
Six years after starting the project, the team is doing it and seeing results.
It starts with machines pulling mud and blue-green algae from the bottom of the river. It is then transferred to a neighboring site where it is sorted and separated.
The water is cleaned and returned to the system cleaner than when it was removed.
As for the nasty mud and algae, they are then treated with a polymer which turns out to be an excellent fertilizer and is used on a nearby farm.
As this process comes to an end, the teams bring in eelgrass to plant on the now cleared area of the river. Another name for the plant is “Rockstar”. The name was derived after seeing it spread so quickly.
It is grown in a lab north of Tampa.
“Now we have completed 52 acres of restoration project and the river has gone mad. I mean there are so many plants and animals that have returned here to their natural state where we planted,” said Moore.
The project along the Crystal River is halfway there and it is already in use in Homosassa. The big plan and the hope is that Rockstar plants will find their way across the state of Florida to help the ecosystem and what lives within.
For more information on Save Crystal River Click here.