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State wildlife officials now back more stringent protections for the 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.

State wildlife officials on Thursday backed off a plan to limit mooring of boats at specific areas along the popular Weeki Wachee River. They are now leaning toward approving more stringent restrictions proposed by Hernando County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had proposed barring the mooring of watercraft along 20 sandbars in 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 about the Weeki Wachee River

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.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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