WASHINGTON—U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto introduced the Little Wekiva River Protection Act, which would add the Little Wekiva River to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers program, a designation that would provide the river with federal funding and other forms of federal support so that the river, once restored, can be preserved for present and future generations. Earlier this month, Murphy visited the Seminole County river to view the ecological damage it has suffered in recent years, and then quickly partnered with Soto, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, to address the problem. The Little Wekiva River used to be more than four feet deep and was enjoyed by individuals on kayaks, canoes, and small motor craft. Recently, the river has been rapidly overwhelmed by silt and debris, resulting in some areas becoming completely dry.
“During my visit to the Little Wekiva River this month, I was struck by the environmental damage I saw,” said Murphy. “The degradation has severely limited the ability of residents to enjoy the river, created an increased risk of flooding, and destroyed animal and plant habitats. Alongside local advocates, I am working to save the river before it’s too late. This bill is one of numerous steps I have taken to protect this natural treasure so it can be enjoyed by Floridians for generations to come.”
“I am proud to work with Congresswoman Murphy and the House Committee on Natural Resources to protect the Little Wekiva River with a Wild and Scenic River designation,” said Soto. “Together, we will also work to stop the silt flows and ensure that its natural beauty is restored for future generations to enjoy.”
The Wild and Scenic Rivers program consists of rivers that have exceptional scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other values, and which are therefore given federal funding and other forms of support to protect them from degradation. The larger Wekiva River was added to the program in 2000. The Wekiva Wild and Scenic River System consists of the Wekiva River, along with Rock Springs Run, Wekiva Springs Run, and Black Water Creek, but the Little Wekiva River is not included. Murphy and Soto’s bill would add the Little Wekiva River to the existing Wekiva Wild and Scenic River System.
This legislation is the most recent in a series of actions taken by Murphy to save the Little Wekiva River. In June, Murphy sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging the federal agency to investigate what is causing the damage to the river and to determine whether the federal Clean Water Act may have been violated. In addition, Murphy secured in the House $688,000 to restore the river as part of a government funding bill that passed the House last month, and she is now working to get the measure through the Senate as well.