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State wildlife officials back more stringent protections for Weeki Wachee River

 Kayakers gather in the shallow waters of the Weeki Wachee River.
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Kayakers gather in the shallow waters of the Weeki Wachee River.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had proposed barring the mooring of watercraftalong 20 sandbarsin the river. They cited a springs protection ordinance that shows they have to prove that boaters are harming that stretch of the river.

But Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto instead said they will try to revise that rule and come closer to Hernando County's proposal to ban boat moorings along a roughly two-mile stretch between Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and the Rogers Park boat ramp.

"Let's just align ourselves with the county, bring it back," he said during a commission meeting in Miami. "I would love to get a little more input from DEP and from the water management district."

Their move comes after the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest Florida Water Management District came out this week in favor of Hernando County's tougher restrictions.

READ MORE: Will Nestle’s Plans To Bottle More Water Put A Popular Florida Spring At Risk?

FWC Commissioner Gary Nicklaus supports coming back at their July meeting with strengthened protections.

"I completely agree with you, and I'm more on the county's side that what our proposal is here, and I think our proposal is based on what the law permits us to do,'' he told his fellow commissioner. "How do we get to the point where we can do what the county wants and not put ourselves back in the position of being legally open?"

Wildlife commissioners plan to revisit the issue at their next meeting, on July 19th.
Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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