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Groups working together to replant seagrasses in the Caloosahatchee

June 14, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program and Calusa Waterkeeper are working with partners - including Johnson Engineering and Sea & Shoreline Aquatic Restoration - local residents and volunteers to replant seagrasses in the tidal Caloosahatchee River.

The kick-off event with dignitaries will begin on June 18 at 10 a.m. in Centennial Park in Fort Myers. The event will begin with opening remarks from the major organizations participating in the project, as well as from the dignitaries present including Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen. The remarks will be followed by a 15-minute demonstration on-site plants and exclusion cages that will be used. After, volunteers will leave by boats to go to other actual planting locations.

The project is to restore the Tidal Caloosahatchee River's submerged aquatic vegetation communities. The species planted are Ruppia maritime, commonly known as Ruppia, and Vallisneria Americana, commonly known as tape or eel grass. Aquatic vegetation is an important part of estuarine ecosystems, providing vital reproductive and nursery habitat for fish in addition to food for grazers such as manatees and turtles. They also improve water quality and clarity by removing nutrients and sediment. The Caloosahatchee River has historically supported vast seagrass beds. However, much of the coverage has been lost in recent years due in part to alterations in water flows to the Tidal Caloosahatchee River.

The project will entail creating five planting areas covered by herbivore exclusion cages to protect the seedlings while they are getting established, in five locations on the north and south shores of the Caloosahatchee River between the Interstate 75 and US 41 bridges. The sites were selected to be along waterfront residents who wanted to participate in the project. CHNEP and Calusa Waterkeeper staff and volunteers, along with staff from Johnson Engineering and Sea & Shoreline, will install the plantings and cages, as well as participating in the ongoing maintenance and monitoring efforts.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program applied for and was funded through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Coastal Management Program, with monies provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Centennial Park is at 2101 Edwards Drive.

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