Sea Grass after Hurricane Idalia

Sea Grass after Hurricane Idalia

By Meaghan Goepferich Posted on October 9, 2023

Where has all the grass gone?

Sea Grass after Hurricane Idalia

A message from Save Crystal River, Homosassa River Restoration Project and Sea & Shoreline:

Following Hurricane Idalia, you may have noticed that it looks like the eelgrass in Kings Bay and the Homosassa River took a holiday. Although it appears different from up above, life and regrowth are happening beneath the surface; many plants are simply too small to be observed from afar.

Hurricane Idalia, much like Hermine in 2016, brought a historic storm surge that left saltwater lingering in our waters for days. The saltwater intrusion has impacted eelgrass plants that have taken root throughout the Kings Bay and Homosassa River systems. The combination of increased saltwater and limited light availability, caused by the storm surge, prompted many eelgrass leaves to wilt and die.

However, nature has a way of bouncing back, and the plants’ roots and rhizomes continue fighting the good fight!

The noticeable leaf loss the eelgrass plants experienced can be compared to both winter leaf shed and grazing pressure from manatees. During these periods, the eelgrass focuses its growth underground, with roots and rhizomes spreading all along the bottom of the river. When spring weather returns, the

tall leaf blades will make a resurgence. As part of the Kings Bay Restoration Project and Homosassa River Restoration Project, salt tolerant, native eelgrass varieties “Rockstar” and “Salty Dog” were planted–and we are already seeing the benefits of planting these varieties! The photos below show plants just three weeks post hurricane conditions, with new root growth and new leaf production.

Just as Hurricane Idalia cannot stop this community from rebounding, it will not stop our teams either! The Homosassa River Restoration Project recently received permits to continue down river, for an additional 25 acres of restoration. Our crews began work last week, removing muck and algae from a canal system off Halls River Road.

And after completing restoration of 92 acres this summer, Save Crystal River’s Kings Bay Restoration Project is powering forward with the restoration of an additional 85 acres. Our teams have started work in Hunter Springs, and recently uncovered and restored flow to a massive spring vent adjacent to the Hunter Springs swim area. You can view this incredible feat and other milestones on the social media accounts of Save Crystal River, Homosassa River Restoration Project and Sea & Shoreline, so be sure to like and follow us for further updates!

Our optimism about the future of Kings Bay and Homosassa River systems, and our dedication to ensuring the investments made by our community will yield lasting results, is stronger than ever. The journey of restoration is marked by both challenges and triumphs. We are confident that, as we work together, we will continue to witness positive transformations for generations to come.

Written by: Jessica Mailliez

Sea & Shoreline, Senior Environmental Manager

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