• Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative

    Improving Water Quality, Reducing Algae Blooms and Creating Healthier Habitats

Photos courtesy of Rusty Chinnis

Project Objective

The solution to improving water quality along the Suncoast depends on achieving two things:

  1. Stopping the alarming flow of pollutants entering our waterways
  2. Cleaning up the excess nutrients that are already there

Closing Piney Point, redirecting the polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee away from our rivers and improving local infrastructure like the Bee Ridge wastewater plant will help reduce the inflow of pollutants. Our Clams/seagrass program is the most cost-effective way to achieve the second objective of reducing the pollutants already in our waterways. This is because each clam can filter up to 10 gallons of seawater a day and they help expand the growth of much needed new seagrass.

Desired Result

  • Restoration of seagrass & clam populations in Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor

  • Provide the research & proof of concept needed to support the use of bi-valves as potential environmental mitigation strategies

  • Integrate environment and economic sustainability

Methods and Timeline

  • Acquire necessary permits for restoration activities

    A team of researchers and natural resource managers will identify restoration sites that have the highest likelihood for success while maximizing ecosystem benefits. A panel of marine scienttists and specialists will be integral to establishing, maintaining, and evaluating restoration efforts. Permits will be acquired from required entities, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCCFWC), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and US Coast Guard (USCG) to conduct restoration activities in pre-determined areas.

  • Install hatchery raised clams and seagrass

    Approximately 3,250,000 nursery grown seagrass planting units will be installed on three foot centers over designated restoration sites to total 650 acres of planted seagrass. Seagrass planting units will consist of nursery grown Shoal grass and Widgeon grass. Both species are highly prolific and are rapid colonizers. Approximately 5,000,000 clams will be raised to a 10mm size, then planted within permitted areas into 30 populations of high density (Pohd) within the three estuaries. The species best suited for this region is the Southern hard clam, Mercenaria campechiensis.
  • Maintain and monitor restoration sites

    Seagrass and clam restoration areas will be monitored for a three year period to document the success of the plantings. A time zero and annual report will be generated from monitoring events. During each monitoring event, a biologist will measure density/cover and expansion rates of the seagrass restoration areas. The 10mm size clam populations, once planted, will be cover netted, a proven technique to reduce predation, with the nets being changed out 4-10 times per year for purposes of controlling biofouling and net mesh size adaptation.

  • Present a peer-reviewed publication of results

    This project will provide an invaluable research opportunity to evaluate multiple parameters during a multi species, large scale restoration effort. An existing team of partners, including management agencies, academic researchers, and non profit conservation organizations, will be encouraged to participate in the process and provide input to research design and progress. Results from any research that stems from this work will be disseminated in the form of scientific publications, formal presentations, and educational outreach to the public.

Project Budget

The estimated cost for this project is $15 million.

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