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Florida wildlife officials have gathered enough community comment to start resuming their statewide aquatic plant spraying with more oversight measures in place.

In a Friday news release, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the completion of its series of public-input sessions to workshop its Aquatic Plant Management Program, which was temporarily halted in late January.

FWC staff will now resume the program, implementing changes recommended by stakeholders about its spray practices and how the agency and its contractors use herbicides on invasive water plants. Among them: Improving the timing of spraying treatments, the coordination of mechanical harvesting efforts, and exploring new ways to manage invasive plants and oversee the agency's contractors.

While FWC maintains chemical treatments are best to keep in check the state’s toughest invasive plants, like water hyacinths and Hydrilla, enough people voiced concerns about the overuse of spraying to prompt the agency to consider minimizing the amount of herbicide it uses.

“Finding the balance, that manages a system in a way that pleases all the diverse user groups of Florida’s lakes, is very difficult,” Kipp Frohlich, director of FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, said in the release. “Nevertheless, we are committed to continue our work with stakeholders to better understand their needs and strive to manage our aquatic resources in ways that benefit the greatest number of people.”

And while FWC isn't holding any additional meetings, it is still accepting comments from the public. Anyone who wants to contribute can send their comment to invasiveplants@myfwc.com.

Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver said Friday the county won’t restart its spraying operations, which are funded in large part by the state, until it gets a definitive answer from FWC on how to proceed.

Aquatic spraying Glyphosate

Technicians from Citrus County's Aquatics Services Division spray the chemical Glyphosate mixed with water to treat lily pads in Lake Spivey in this 2013 file photo. 

For more details on aquatic plant management visit MyFWC.com/AquaticPlants.

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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