It was a happy day last August when Steve Minguy learned that the state had allocated $2 million toward the Homosassa River restoration project.
Minguy, who heads the Homosassa River Restoration Project Inc., said the group hasn’t seen a dime of that allocation despite being all but ready to be removing muck and Lyngbya algae from the headwaters once manatee-protection season concludes at the end of March.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” he said. “We were kind of hoping we would have had those funds last year. That’s the way it works.”
State Sen. Wilton Simpson, a strong and vocal supporter of both the Crystal River and Homosassa restoration projects, said the funds are tied up in the due-diligence process to ensure permits and contracts are in place before they’re released.
“We have a spot for that money and it is sitting there waiting to be approved,” Simpson, R-Trilby, said.
The Homosassa project is so much like that of Save Crystal River’s, that Homosassa will piggyback onto the same contractors Crystal River uses to de-muck the water bottom and remove Lyngbya.
Simpson said the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, of which Simpson is a member, meets again in March and he hopes to have the Homosassa project approved at that time.
“I know the folks in Crystal River and Homosassa have done a tremendous job,” he said. “Homosassa is not nearly as complicated a project as Crystal River. I know the money is coming in. I hope to get the money in their coffers.”
Minguy reached out by email two weeks ago to Citrus County Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard, asking for the county’s help in getting the state funds.
Kinnard said Monday there isn’t much the county can do other than ask legislators to fulfill their commitment.
“The more we can encourage them to support this project, and obviously continue in Crystal River, the better off we’re all going to be,” he said. “Everything I’ve heard is all positive.”
Minguy said he knows Simpson and Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, are doing their best. And he believes both will support the Homosassa Restoration Project’s request for an additional $2 million from the Legislature this year.
“I’m very optimistic we’ll have boats and divers in the water come spring,” he said of the work. “I’m only frustrated in the process, not Sen. Simpson. No way we’d be here without his support.”