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Editor's Note: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a $1.2 million contract with Citrus County for aquatic plant control, of which $878,000 is for mechanical harvesting. The rest pays for spray herbicides, salary and other equipment.

Florida wildlife officials agreed to lift their statewide aquatic plant spraying ban with new oversight measures in place, but weren't definite on when the operations will restart.

During a meeting Thursday in Gainesville, the seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) board directed its staff to implement the input of what more than 500 people recently had to say about how FWC and its contractors use herbicides on invasive water plants, an FWC news release states.

This includes:

  • Creating more habitat management plans for individual lakes.
  • Forming a Technical Assistance Group (TAG) of FWC staff, partners and stakeholders to help guide the FWC with lake management.
  • Improving the timing of herbicide spraying treatments.
  • Increasing the coordination with manual plant-harvesting companies.
  • Exploring new methods and technologies to oversee herbicide application contractors.
  • Developing pilot projects to explore better plant management tools.

“We are resuming our management program with a commitment to these enhancements, and will solicit alternative methods, working with research partners and others…” FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said in the agency’s release.

FWC in late January halted its aquatic plant management so it could obtain public comment on its and its contractors’ practices.

FWC is still accepting and incorporating public input, and has two workshops scheduled for Feb. 25 and 26 in Lake County and Eustis, respectively.

Once FWC has finished these meetings, it will review the feedback and determine what to do next with its program, agency spokeswoman Carli Segelson said in an email Friday.

Comments can also be submitted by emailing them to Invasiveplants@myfwc.com.

Citrus County commissioners voted 4-1 on Feb. 12 to urge FWC to reconsider its decision to stop funding spray operations, arguing scientific studies claim there is little to no danger in using federally and state-approved herbicide chemicals.

County Administrator Randy Oliver said Friday he and his staff are unclear about FWC’s decision from Thursday, and has asked the agency for clarification on when his staff can resume spraying herbicides.

In the meantime, aquatic plant spraying operations in the county will be on pause until FWC decides what to do with the rest of the funding it allocates the county for plant control in its lakes and river, Oliver said.

County Aquatic Services Director Mark Edwards said the county receives roughly $1.2 million from the state for aquatic plant control, of which $878,000 pays for mechanical harvesting operations.

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. 

County staff will keep using machines and rakes to uproot plant life, but the method is slower than spraying, and could also spur more invasive plants, like hydrilla, to grow, Oliver said.

Oliver said county taxpayers also contribute toward the county’s own spray program that isn’t funded by FWC, but those operations will also cease until FWC gives direction.

Oliver said he hopes to get an answer from FWC within the next two weeks, and not much later since it doesn’t take long for the vegetation to spread, leaving water bodies blocked to boats.

“We believe it’s essential to keep these waterways navigable,” Oliver said. “In a couple months' time, some of these are going to be pretty hard to navigate.”

To see FWC's news release, visit tinyurl.com/y3v9nfoo.

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

(3) comments

Miuke Nelson

So much for letting science speak. Politics as usual.


No one even considers the environment, all they worry about is boat navigation and weeds in their yard. It’s time to worry about our lakes and wildlife not the complaining of people who are inconvenienced by weeds


Citrus county never ceases to blow my mind. If commissioners feel these toxins are safe I challenge then to drink some. Have they not read the MSDS sheets on these toxins. Have they not seen the devastation in the environment. I have personally watched pesticides being sprayed in 15 mile an hour winds, I ahve watched applicators wash out equip. in canals and dump left over chemicals. I have witnessed the entire island of Ohio Key lose it's foliage due to improper use of these chemicals. Signs are supposed to be posted when these chemicals are used on public spaces, but they are not. Common sense begs at least a thorough review of ALL the evidence. If it kills living matter it has to eventually harm us...Our waterways are already so incredibly polluted. When are we going to take steps to heal this planet???? Are YOU HEALTHY????????????????????

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