FWC seeks public comment
on proposed Springs Protection Zone
for Weeki Wachee Spring
The map above, created by the FWC, shows the zone.
By Ashlee Sklute of the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Published June 8, 2023 at 8 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- At its May Commission meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed boating and waterways staff to reevaluate the proposal and evidence for the establishment of a Springs Protection Zone at Weeki Wachee Spring and a portion of the spring’s associated spring run in Hernando County.
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Anchoring, mooring, beaching and grounding of vessels were determined to have caused harm to the bank and vegetation, native habitat and aquatic grasses in and around the spring and along the spring run. These activities will be prohibited within the proposed Springs Protection Zone.
FWC staff coordinated with Hernando County officials, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection to review whether Weeki Wachee Spring met the criteria for the creation of a Springs Protection Zone and held three public meetings, two for the Weeki Wachee Springs Protection Zone in particular, for interested parties before approval. The FWC, DEP, Southwest Florida Water Management District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard evaluated the evidence presented.
At the upcoming July 19-20 Commission meeting, FWC staff will present a proposed final rule that will create a Springs Protection Zone restricting beaching, mooring, anchoring and grounding of vessels on the spring run of the Weeki Wachee River extending from the spring boil within Weeki Wachee Springs State Park to the Rogers Park Boat Ramp.
The FWC is seeking public comment on the proposed Springs Protection Zone. Click HERE to see more.
A summary of the input received during this public comment period will be presented to Commissioners at the July 19-20 meeting. Public comments are being accepted through June 30. Comments can be submitted to:
and via USPS mail:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Attn: Boating and Waterways, 1M
620 S. Meridian St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
See a map and description of the proposed Springs Protection Zone and learn more about opportunities to provide feedback by visiting https://myfwc.com/boating/, clicking on “Waterway Management” and then “Public Workshops/Meeting/Notices.”
FWC urges boaters to go slow
and be alert for jumping sturgeon
Story and Photo Provided
By Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Published June 2, 2023 at 9:15 a.m.
LAKE CITY -- Gulf sturgeons are in the Suwannee River and Santa Fe River, and they are jumping. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging boaters on the Suwannee River to go slow and maintain 360-degree awareness for jumping sturgeon now through the end of summer.
In past years, boaters have been injured by direct strikes with sturgeon. There is no warning; if a boater passes through when the fish is in the air, there is a chance of injury.
To stay safe around jumping sturgeons, follow these three safe boating practices:
Go slow; allow more time for the vessel operator to react if a sturgeon jumps in front of you.
Be alert and pay attention to your surroundings. This includes what a boater sees and hears.
Always wear your life jacket. If you're knocked out of the boat, hurt and unconscious, a life jacket will help keep you afloat.
Scientists have determined that sturgeon jump to communicate with other sturgeons and refill their swim bladder to maintain buoyancy. While sturgeons can jump anywhere in the rivers, the fish in the Suwannee River are commonly observed jumping where they gather in "holding" areas. Holding areas are where they spawn, usually the deeper holes in the river. Major holding areas in the Suwannee occur above Jack's Sandbar; below Manatee Springs; between Fanning Springs and Usher Landing; below Old Town Trestle; below the confluence of the Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers; near Rock Bluff; and below Anderson Springs.
The fish jump in the Santa Fe River, too, and boaters are reminded to use safe boating practices there as well.
Gulf sturgeon are protected under state and federal laws and cannot be harvested. To report sturgeon collisions, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). For more information about Gulf Sturgeon, go to https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/, click "species profiles" and then "Gulf Sturgeon."
Duke Energy urges customers
to plan for 2023 Hurricane Season
By Duke News Center
Published May 31, 2023 at 8 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Memorial Day weekend means the unofficial start of summer, which is followed by another summer passage, the beginning of hurricane season, which runs June 1 through Nov. 30.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a hurricane season with 12 to 17 named storms this season. Of those storms, the organization estimates 5 to 9 could become hurricanes with one to four of those to be a Category 3 or higher with winds of 111 mph or greater.
Duke Energy encourages its customers to prepare for potential hurricanes and other severe storms and to have a plan to protect their family and property during the storm season. In the Carolinas, hurricanes can often affect communities both near and far from the coast, and severe storms can strike anywhere, so customers in all areas should prepare.
Duke Energy also takes steps to prepare. Throughout the year, the company makes improvements to its electric grid to make it stronger and more resistant to outages from extreme weather and enable faster restoration of power when disruptions occur. Improvements include pole and line upgrades, placing outage-prone lines underground and installing smart, self-healing technology that automatically detects power outages and quickly reroutes power to restore service faster.
In 2022, self-healing technology helped to avoid more than 1.4 million customer outages, saving more than 7.2 million hours of total lost outage time. Crews also trim trees and remove vegetation year-round that threaten the reliable operation of the electric grid. These measures are particularly beneficial to customers during storms when vegetation is a leading cause of outages.
“We work every day to improve reliability for our customers by designing our system to withstand extreme weather conditions and for faster power restoration when outages do occur,” said Scott Batson, chief distribution officer. “And when a major storm hits, we have teams of line technicians, tree workers and support personnel prepared to safely respond when our customers need us most.”
Duke Energy has a comprehensive storm response plan built upon decades of experience and improvement. Advanced forecasting and damage modeling processes help the company to place crews, support resources and equipment strategically ahead of a storm to respond quickly as outages occur. And partnerships with peer utilities provide additional resources to shorten response times and get communities back on their feet faster. This collaboration is increasingly important as utilities face storms that are growing in frequency and intensity.
Just as Duke Energy prioritizes the safety of its crews and communities, it also encourages its customers to do the same and have a plan in place in case they experience an extended power outage after severe weather. Below are some recommended safety tips:
Before the storm
● Create (or update) an emergency supply kit to save valuable time later. The kit should include everything an individual or family would need for at least two weeks, especially medicines, water, nonperishable foods and other supplies that might be hard to find after a storm hits.
● Keep a portable radio or TV or a NOAA weather radio on hand to monitor weather forecasts and important information from state and local officials.
● Charge cellphones, computers and other electronic devices in advance of storms to stay connected to important safety and response information. Consider purchasing portable chargers and make sure they are fully charged as well.
● Maintain a plan to move family members – especially those with special needs – to a safe, alternative location in case an extended power outage occurs or evacuation is required.
During the storm
● If an outage occurs, disconnect or turn off any nonessential electrical equipment that may start automatically when power is restored to avoid overloading circuits and do not open freezers or refrigerators more than necessary. Opening will allow food to thaw more quickly.
● In case of strong winds, stay away from windows and doors, even if they are covered. Seek shelter in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest floor.
After the storm
● Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized, as well as trees, limbs or anything in contact with lines.
● If a power line falls across a car that you are in, stay in the car. If you must get out of the car due to a fire or another immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body touches the car when your feet touch the ground.
2023-2024 Ocala Symphony Orchestra
The Ocala Symphony Orchestra is seen on opening night last year with Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra Matthew Wardell.
Story and Photo Provided
By Savannah Silliman, Marketing Manager
Published May 31, 2023 at 11 a.m.
OCALA – The Ocala Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 season with timeless masterworks, two world premieres, and stellar soloists under the baton of Maestro Matthew Wardell.
The season begins July 2, with Red, White, and Ocala Symphony Blue, and subscription performances begin Oct. 2023. The upcoming season will feature six subscription concerts and eight special events, consisting of three multimedia performances for guests of all ages.
The Symphony’s Special Concert selection is on sale now, including two multimedia performances and Ocala Symphony Chorus concerts. Tickets range from $15 to $40 for adults and $10 for students.
The Ocala Symphony Orchestra is seen on opening night last year.
“They say you can’t have it all. Well, this season might just disprove that!” Music Director and Conductor of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra Matthew Wardell said. “You have a superbly talented orchestra playing mind-blowingly exciting core repertoire from composers like Mahler and Tchaikovsky alongside new works by preeminent living composers like Stella Sung and Paul Richards.”
The director and conductor continued.
“We have incredible soloists in clarinetist Jackie Glazier, pianist Andreas Klein, and baritone Tony Offerle with some fantastic guests on the podium like Edward Leonard and one of our perennial favorites, Raymond Chobaz,” Wardell said. “We have holiday pops, some of the best film music and finally, two unforgettable choir concerts led by our choirmaster and Assistant Conductor, Joshua Mazur with the Ocala Symphony Chorus! Nothing is to be missed!”
Current Ocala Symphony subscribers can renew subscriptions today by calling the box office at 352-351-1606 or visiting in person Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
New subscribers can begin purchasing on July 15 at 10 a.m.
Single tickets for subscription concerts will be available starting Aug. 1.
For more information about season subscriptions, essential dates, and tickets for individual concerts visit www.reillyartscenter.com/symphony/orchestra/.
2023-2024 Ocala Symphony Orchestra Subscription Concerts
● Mahler and the Breath of Life
Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023 – 3 p.m.
● Pops! Goes the Holidays
Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 – 3 p.m.
● Hungarian Pictures
Saturday, Jan.27, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan.28, 2024 – 3 p.m.
● Rhythmic Tides
Saturday, Feb.24, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb.25, 2024 – 3 p.m.
● Bold Brahms
Saturday, March 23, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 24, 2024 – 3 p.m.
● To the End of the Earth
Saturday, April 27, 2024 – 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 28, 2024 – 3 p.m.
● Red, White, and Ocala Symphony Blue: A Salute to our Troops
Sunday, July 2, 2023 – 3 p.m.
● The Ocala Symphony Chorus presents: Rustic Songs and Dances
Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023 – 3 p.m.
● Symphony Under the Lights
Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 – 7:30 p.m.
● 33rd Annual Young Artist Competition: Honors Recital
Sunday, Jan.14, 2024 – 3 p.m.
● Silent Film Orchestra: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Saturday, Jan.20, 2024 – 7:30 p.m.
● Movie Music Spectacular: From Hogwarts to a Galaxy, Far, Far, Away!
Saturday, March 9, 2024 – 7:30 p.m.
● The Ocala Symphony Chorus presents: Melodious Accord
Saturday, April 14, 2024 – 3 p.m.
May Day 2023
In the two collages of pictures above, the fun and activities of May Day 2023 (Saturday, May 27) in Chiefland are captured. In addition to the May Day Queens, which were previously published, among the pictures above are Minister Sebrenah Phillips and Minister Leon Young singing; Richard Buie cooking; Lyrik Gent dancing; Stacey Peters; Sandy Williams selling cake; Talent Show Winner Mykenzi Gaskins and others. To see the May Day Queen pictures, please visit the LIFE PAGE. To see the 2021 May Day coverage, click HERE.
Published May 29, 2023 at 3 p.m.
Photos and Information Provided By Alice Monyei
Fisher House Quilt Tickets On Sale
The Cedar Key Woman’s Club quilt for this year is finished and ready for someone to own it. The ladies of the club have been hard at work and have completed the quilt pictured above to benefit the Fisher House of Gainesville (a place for veterans’ families while their veteran receives medical care).
Putting the finishing touches on this quilt to benefit the Fisher House are Cedar Key Woman’s Club members Rosemary Danesi, Patricia Stephens, Leslie Vassall, Jean Garbaty, Christine Black, Janet Ramsey and Eileen Senecal. Sales of the opportunity tickets will begin this week and continue until the awarding of the quilt in April of 2024. The quilt will be on display at the Island Hotel and at Seacoast Bank in Cedar Key throughout the months ahead. This is one of the many outreach projects of the Cedar Key Woman’s Club.
Published May 26, 2023 at 8:30 a.m.
Photos and Information Provided By Donna Bushnell of the Cedar Key Woman’s Club
100 women pilots set to compete
in 46th Annual Air Race Classic
42 Teams herald
94th anniversary of women's air racing
Cross City Airport
is final intermediate stop
By Anita Mixson, publicity
Published May 22, 2023 at 10:15 a.m.
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA -- The field is set for the 46th Annual Air Race Classic (ARC), the annual all-women cross-country airplane race.
Forty-two teams, consisting of 100 women pilots from across the United States and around the world, will take off at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 20 from Grand Forks International Airport, Grand Forks, North Dakota, for a 2,684-statute mile competition across 12 states that ends Friday, June 23 at Miami Homestead General Aviation Airport in Homestead.
The Cross City Airport is among the airports involved in this race.
The oldest race of its kind in the nation, the Air Race Classic traces its roots to the 1929 Women's Air Derby, which is also known as the Powder Puff Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other daring female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio.
This year's ARC celebrates the 94th anniversary of that historic competition, which marked the beginning of women's air racing in the United States. Nowadays, the ARC is the epicenter of women's air racing, the ultimate test of piloting skill and aviation decision-making for female pilots of all ages and from all walks of life.
"The ARC Board of Directors and volunteers have been hard at work preparing for our 46th race," said Air Race Classic President Lara Gaerte. "We look forward to celebrating the 94th anniversary of the Women's Air Derby as we welcome back veteran racers and meet new competitors at our start in Grand Forks, North Dakota."
This year’s ARC starts at Grand Forks, North Dakota and ends at Homestead, Florida.
Intermediate stops are in Mankato, Minnesota, Ottumwa, Iowa, Hastings, Nebraska, Ponca City, Oklahoma, Sulphur Springs, Texas, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Pell City, Alabama and Cross City, Florida
Teams will depart beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 20 from Grand Forks, North Dakota, taking off one after another, 30 seconds apart. From there, the field will spread out as faster planes move to the head of the pack.
At each of the nine intermediate checkpoints, teams will execute high-speed flybys over a timing line as they race against the clock. Faster planes may cover the course in only two days; slower teams may not arrive at the Terminus in Homestead, Florida until moments before the arrival deadline at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 23.
The 42 teams of two or three pilots will have four days to complete the course, flying normally aspirated, piston-powered airplanes in visual flight conditions during daylight hours. Pilots and copilots must have at least a Private pilot certificate and a minimum of 100 hours as pilot-in-command to qualify for the race; one of them must have at least 500 hours as pilot-in-command or a current instrument rating. If they wish, the pilot and copilot may bring along a teammate, who must hold at least a student pilot certificate.
Eighteen college and university teams representing Auburn University, Indiana State University, Kent State, Kansas State University – Polytechnic, LeTourneau University, Lewis University, Liberty University, Middle Tennessee State University, Minnesota State University – Mankato, Ohio State University, Purdue University, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, University of North Dakota, and Western Michigan University are participating.
Because each plane receives a unique handicap, teams are racing against their own best time, not against one another.
This creates a level playing field, so slower planes can compete against faster aircraft on an equal basis. Teams strategize to play the elements, holding out for better weather or seeking more favorable winds, to beat their handicap by the greatest margin.
Official standings aren't determined until after the last team has crossed the finish line – the last arrival at the Terminus may, in fact, be the winner!
national flag football championship
Story and Photos Provided
By FGC Public Information Coordinator Stephen Culotti
Published May 21, 2023 at 7 a.m.
ATLANTA – The Florida Gateway College Women’s Flag Football Team finished their inaugural season as National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Champions.
The tournament was played in Atlanta from May 18 through May 20, and was presented by NFL FLAG and the Atlanta Falcons.
The national competition ended with the FGC Timberwolves delivering a shutout victory, 20-0, over runners-up Hesston College (Hesston, Kansas).
The Championship Final was played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home stadium of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.
With the title, FGC becomes the first NJCAA Flag Football National Champion in the history of the organization.
Destiny Lockett (seen above, #4) was awarded NJCAA Championship Most Valuable Player and All Tournament Defensive Athlete.
FGC Timberwolves Head Flag Football Coach Ricky Hufty was named NJCAA Coach of the Year.
The Timberwolves went undefeated in their five match-ups of the tournament after a regular season record of 10-1, finishing their first season with an overall record of 15-1.
The team, which is comprised of Ashley Smith of Jacksonville, Kyla Desmartin of Branford, Camille Perry of Lake City, Destiny Lockett of St. Petersburg, Kiana Hamilton of Ocala, Chinera Shaheed of Tallahassee, Klaudia Taylor of Ocala, Makenzie Phillian of Tampa, Kayla Desmartin of Branford, Zamaria Granado of Branford, Jazmen Thompson of Jacksonville, and Eriana Coleman of Jacksonville. will bring the championship rings and trophy home from Atlanta, Georgia, to FGC in Lake City as the college’s first NJCAA National Champions since 2001.
CAAA All Star T Ball Players
May 27 and 28, the Chiefland Area Athletic Association is having All Star Baseball and T Ball Tournaments at Charles Strickland Recreational Park. These four brave T ball players are on the CAAA All Star T Ball Team, as are others. On Saturday (May 20) they were seeking donations from in front of Winn-Dixie in Chiefland. Their teammates were a bit south at the Tractor Supply Co. store in the same shopping center. These four players are (from left) Sawyer Layfield, Caleb Burton, Dawson Barnen and Mason Sikes.
Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © May 20, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.
National Safe Boating Week
starts June 20
This 2014 FWC file photo shows a scene at Hollingsworth Bluff Boat Ramp from nine years ago. This type of boat launching isl happening throughout Florida during National Safe Boating Week.
FWC file photo by Karen Parker
By Ashlee Sklute
Media contact for FWC Law Enforcement Division
Published May 19, 2023 at 3 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- National Safe Boating Week kicks off the summer boating season as an annual reminder for boaters to prioritize safety while enjoying recreational activities on Florida’s beautiful waterways.
Florida is recognized as “The Boating Capital of the World” and leads the nation with over 1 million registered vessels across the state.
“Our state is known worldwide as a prime boating spot for residents and visitors. Unfortunately, each year FWC officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented,” said Maj. Rob Beaton, FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “There were hundreds of accidents reported last year, involving almost 2,000 individuals.”
In 2022, 54 percent of all vessel accidents involved collision. The primary causes for these accidents were improper lookout and operator inexperience. To reduce the number of boating accidents, the FWC encourages boaters to pay attention, maintain 360-degree awareness at all times and take a boater safety course. In 2022, 70 percent of operators involved in fatal boating accidents had no formal boater education.
For a summary of Florida’s regulations and available courses, visit https://myfwc.com/boating/.
“We know that an educated boater is safer on the water,”
Maj. Beaton said. “Everyone can benefit from taking a boating safety course, it makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone on board.”
Among other tips found at https://myfwc.com/boating/, boaters are encouraged to find and wear a comfortable United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on the water. They should also educate themselves on the dangers of impaired boating. Alcohol and drugs can impair a boater’s judgement, reaction time and overall ability to operate a boat safely.
“Boating while impaired by alcohol or drugs is dangerous and illegal,” Beaton said. “FWC officers are always on the lookout for impaired operators and these operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
To report dangerous boating activity, the public can submit anonymous tips by texting 847411 (Tip411) with keyword “FWC” followed by the location and any information about the violation or call 888-404-FWCC (3922).
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