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U.S. approves Little Manatee River study

A federal study is needed before river gets “scenic” status and environmental safeguards.

President Joe Biden’s signature on a $1.7 trillion spending bill last week guaranteed a victory for Hillsborough County environmental preservationists.

Included in the omnibus bill was a measure from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, which will begin the process of potentially designating the Little Manatee River as a scenic waterway to safeguard it from future development.

“Designating the Little Manatee River as ‘scenic’ will ensure that it is kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy. This bill brings us one step closer to making this historic designation a reality,” Buchanan said in a released statement.

Buchanan filed the Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act in 2020. It sought to add a 51-mile segment of the Little Manatee River in southeastern Hillsborough to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System, which has the primary goal of conserving free-flowing rivers across the country.

However, the House Natural Resources Committee amended the bill last year to authorize a formal National Park Service study of the river before an official designation can occur. The measure passed the House on a voice vote in September and was included in the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by the president in late December.