Home News Suwannee River Pass Proves Nearly Unnavigable for Boats Following Hurricane Idalia

Suwannee River Pass Proves Nearly Unnavigable for Boats Following Hurricane Idalia

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Suwannee River Pass Proves Nearly Unnavigable for Boats Following Hurricane Idalia

Down along the Suwannee River in Dixie County, individuals are having a tough time attending to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Idalia pushed a bunch of sand and debris into McGriff Pass, making the three.5-mile channel connecting the river with the Gulf of Mexico nearly impassable.

Now, six weeks after Idalia slammed into the Big Bend with 125-mph winds, residents of Suwannee, a village of 300 depending on recreational fishing and boating, have taken to social media to say they’re in dire straits.

A member of the Suwannee Friends Facebook page posted this week that the 75-foot wide channel is in “serious disrepair,” with collapsed channel markers and missing signs, hampering navigation.

Captain Kenny Mullins of Reel Epic Charters out of Keaton Beach said all of the rivers of the Big Bend need dredging and agrees that conditions along the normally six-foot-deep McGriff Pass have reached a critical point.

Boats at the marina in Suwannee, Fla. displaced following Hurricane Idalia are left for owners to find Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.

“It’s. Truthfully. Last winter, there have been boats running aground day by day, and it’s worse because the storm,” said Mullins.

In 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed dredging of the McGriff Channel to remove 60,000 cubic yards of fabric from its bed to make use of in a beach restoration at nearby Cat Island.

However the project failed to achieve traction in Congress where funding needed to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The Dixie County Commission conducted an economic feasibility study on the Corps’ request. Assistant County Manager Duane Cannon said the study hit the economic impact threshold that was set, however the project was placed on hold.

“That is all I have been told. I do not really understand or know the reasoning why,” said Cannon.

The Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville office didn’t reply to emails or phone calls about McGriff Pass.

“At this point, we’re on the mercy of the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Cannon.

Passes comparable to McGriff are routes for river water going out and tide water coming into bays and estuaries. They move plenty of water and fish.

Mullins has worked the inlets, bays, and estuaries along the Coast from the Aucilla River in Jefferson County to the Suwannee for the past five years.

He uses McGriff Pass in the summertime when he angles for triple-tail redfish, tarpon, and snook, and within the winter as a duck hunting guide.

He said after Idalia, McGriff is shallower and the storm shifted sandbars.

“There are captains which might be very aware of the realm and at low tide, they’re running aground in areas they may normally pass,” said Mullins.

Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, said similar problems exist up the coastline where Idalia pushed sediments and other debris up into canals and riverways.

Simon said he had not yet heard of problems along the Suwannee, but he has been talking to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection about navigation problems near Horseshoe Beach, 18 miles to the north and just south of where Idalia got here ashore.

Simon said he’ll add the Suwannee to the list in his talks with state officials about the best way to get the cash and resources to dredge the Big Bend’s waterways to the Gulf.

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