TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — Her family’s history in Tarpon Springs goes back more than a hundred years to when Athena Tsardoulias’ grandfather was an original sponge diver.
But now the river she’s still connected to is in trouble.
“The safe navigability of the Anclote River is integral to our economy. Without it, Tarpon Springs collapses,” she said.
Tsardoulias, the owner of Tarpon Sponge, says the problem is that the river filled with sediment making it very shallow in some spots.
Large boats can’t get through. She says it desperately needs to be dredged.
“If these larger vessels can’t get in here we lose their business, that’s what’s happened,” she said.
Those businesses include the one Junior Duckworth owns. He builds boats; big ones.
And the river’s condition makes it difficult for him to get them out to the gulf.
“I thought of moving. But I don’t want to leave Tarpon Springs,” he said.
The Sponge Docks have long been a place for tourists, attracting more than a million visitors a year. But it’s also a center point for fishing. More than half of Pinellas County’s commercial fishing happens in this area.
But after more than 20 years, plans are in the works for the US Army Corp of Engineers to dredge the Anclote.
State Representative Chris Sprowls helped secure some of the funding.
“if we don’t fix what’s happening in the river, then we are going to be in a situation where we are going to turn the clock back on our economic vitality,” he said.
Officials hope the work starts sometime next year. The project will cost about $3.5 million.