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Bill Nelson visits Silver Springs

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Sen. Bill Nelson talks to the media and Marion County commissioners at Silver Springs on Tuesday afternoon.
Sen. Bill Nelson talks to the media and Marion County commissioners at Silver Springs on Tuesday afternoon.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson remembers when Silver Springs was crystal clear to its silver, sandy bottom. Now, it’s not.

Nelson spent Tuesday afternoon at Silver Springs with representatives from Marion County to bring attention to a problem that is literally growing every day. That problem is algae.

A few weeks ago, commissioners from Marion County traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with Nelson about the problem. With an upcoming trip to Tallahassee already planned, he decided to make a stop at Silver Springs to see the issue firsthand.

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Leah Harding reported for WUFT-FM.

Nelson, casual and friendly throughout the visit, wore blue jeans, a red jacket and boots. At one point during the tour he did a convincing imitation of a female alligator call.

“Florida and its springs need help,” Nelson said after finishing a tour on one of the glass bottom boats that thousands of tourists have rode in over the years. The purpose of the glass bottom is to give people a chance to see the natural beauty of Florida springs from wildlife, vegetation and the underwater landscape. Now, the view is often shrouded in green.

One of the main reasons for this algae, though there are multiple reasons and theories, is nitrate runoff, according to Marion County Commissioner David Moore.

Some of the algae that has been growing in the springs, obscuring the view of the water.
Some of the algae that has been growing in the springs, obscuring the view of the water.

Moore said they are looking for ways and funding to begin addressing this issue now before it gets worse.

James Couillard is a landscape architect with the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department. He explained that thousands of acres of water and land are connected to the spring ecologically. Couillard said the issue isn’t just an environmental one but is also related to tourism, which the Florida springs attract a lot of every year.

Nelson explained his appreciation and concern for environmental issues stems from his experience as an astronaut. Seeing the Earth from afar gave him a broader perspective of environmental damage.

He said he plans to continue working with Marion county to solve the issue.

A map of the Marion County springs protection zones.
A map of the Marion County springs protection zones.

About Jessica Kegu

Jessica is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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