FANNING SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — The sea cows have returned to a North Florida spring after environmental officials spent nearly $100,000 on a project to coax them in.

The Gainesville Sun reports that 20 manatees were spotted in Fanning Springs this week. State officials removed sediment from the bottom of the springs so the manatees would have more room. This allows the animals to get out of the colder Suwannee River water and into the 72-degree spring water.

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The cleaning started in early November 2011 after erosion caused sediment to collect at the bottom of the spring creating shallow levels.

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The project was a joint effort involving the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Prior to the cleanup, only about five manatees were spotted in the springs.

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