Sea Grass Replanting test

 

Article from TC Palm
http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/jul/09/sea-grass-replanting-test-to-begin-this-month-in/

Post-doctoral interns Angela Capper, of Australia, and Mark Clementz, of Fort Pierce, pack up their collected sea grass from the Indian River Lagoon to take back to the lab at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce for a study on marine life in 2005. Research efforts on local sea grass are ongoing. 

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Post-doctoral interns Angela Capper, of Australia, and Mark Clementz, of Fort Pierce, pack up their collected sea grass from the Indian River Lagoon to take back to the lab at the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce for a study on marine life in 2005. Research efforts on local sea grass are ongoing. file

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Transplanted sea grasses could help to fill barren spots in the Indian River Lagoon where about 50 square miles of them have died since 2009, St. Johns River Water Management District scientists say.

To put their theory to the test, water managers intend to hand-harvest shoal grass from lush underwater meadows around Merritt Island near Cocoa Beach and hand-plant them into dead spots from Vero Beach to Cape Canaveral, district environmental scientist Joel Steward said.

If the 3 1/2-year experiment proves successful — meaning the sea grass not only survives but grows — it could lead to large-scale replanting in the future.

“We would have to find a way to come up with additional sea grass and that could be an issue,” district spokesman Hank Largin said. “We likely would need to get some type of federal funding to be able to purchase larges amount of sea grass to plant.”

REPLANTING PROJECT

The district will plant plugs into fewer than 30 possible locations scientists have identified, starting from north of Cape Canaveral to south of the Wabasso Bridge. The district plans to start small, with three to five experimental sites north of the Sebastian Inlet in the first year. No transplants are planned for areas south of the inlet this year.

“If this works, perhaps we can move into a fuller phase and do larger areas,” Steward said. “If all goes well, we may be adding sites in the second year. Then, if it still looks good, we may try to pull in federal dollars and donations” for a larger effort.

The district plans to contract with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute for $85,000 to do the transplant feasibility study through 2015, said St. Johns environmental scientist Bob Chamberlain.

The district will begin planting in mid- to late-July, having recently received the last of the required permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Largin said.

UNDERLYING CAUSES

Researchers at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce who have been testing the water and sediments near the Wabasso Bridge say they hope water managers first determine whether they’ve chosen areas where sea grasses can grow.

ORCA scientists believe there may be something in the sediments and/or overly acidic water in some areas that could be at least partially be responsible for the death of sea grasses in the Wabasso area. Their test samples are still out at labs, ORCA founder Edie Widder said.

The transplant project is part of a larger, multi-year effort to investigate the algae blooms that are killing sea grasses, particularly in the northern part of the lagoon.

“(We want) to look specifically at some of the underlying drivers to see why we have frequent, high-magnitude algal blooms,” Seward said.

The blooms, particularly a “superbloom” in 2011, significantly reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the sea grasses. Another bloom occurred last summer and one has begun this year.

Senate panel has until November to suggest changes to improve Indian River Lagoon

In 2003, the largest continuous discharge of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee since 1999  created a dark plume of water visible in the St. Lucie Inlet and along the Atlantic Coast. Such conditions periodically affect the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie estuary when too much water from Lake Okeechobee is released into the estuary.

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By Jonathan Mattise
Posted July 10, 2013 at 1:45 p.m., updated July 10, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.
In 2003, the largest continuous discharge of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee since 1999 created a dark plume of water visible in the St. Lucie Inlet and along the Atlantic Coast. Such conditions periodically affect the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie estuary when too much water from Lake Okeechobee is released into the estuary.

Sen. Joe Negron$RETURN$$RETURN$Sen. Joe Negron

A newly-formed Florida Senate panel led by Sen. Joe Negron has until November to suggest changes to the Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases into the St. Lucie Estuary, and other water policies maiming local waterways.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, announced the new oversight committee dedicated to the Indian River Lagoon Wednesday. The Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, which has five Republican and three Democratic members appointed by Gaetz, will hold multiple hearings with stakeholders.

The Senate is looking at early- to mid-August to schedule the hearings, Gaetz spokeswoman Katie Betta said. Negron said the first hearing will take place in Stuart and the meetings will be open to the public.

“I’m determined to get to the bottom of this issue and how we can prevent environmental devastation to the Indian River, the St. Lucie River and the lagoon,” Negron said.

In addition to state lawmakers, Negron said he will invite the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, environmental interests and sugar and agricultural representatives.

Negron said he also plans to speak with Murphy about water issues before the meeting.

“I’m fully expecting all of the important decision-makers to be at the Senate committee hearing,” Negron said.

Negron has credited Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers for bringing the lagoon issue to the forefront. Scripps held two forums on the lagoon’s health with state lawmakers in June.

 

WHAT IT WILL DO

The committee is tasked with studying the policies, spending and other governmental activities affecting the lagoon and lake basin. Then the group will compile a report by Nov. 4 that includes:

Historic and current state and federal water policies;

Impact of water releases and environmental priorities;

State and federal options for improvement; and

Water policy recommendations.

The report will be submitted to the Senate Committee on Appropriations chaired by Negron, and committees on Environmental Preservation and Agriculture.

“The federal government and the state of Florida have invested vast sums and spent a number of years developing water policies for the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee basin,” Gaetz said in a news release. “The purpose of this Select Committee is to determine what progress has been made and what changes in policy, if any, should be recommended to the Legislature and the Congress.”

 

POSSIBLE OUTCOME

The recommendations could result in new water management proposals for the 2014 legislative session, which starts in March, Negron said in the news release.

“Local residents can see the impact of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon firsthand and have asked members of our local legislative delegation to play a role in assessing the impact of current water release activities,” Negron said in the release.

Environmental advocates contend Lake Okeechobee discharges should flow naturally south toward the Everglades, right through sugar farmlands. Instead, the water is released via canals east into the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee. The freshwater dumps can cause algae blooms and fish kills in the river and lagoon.

Indian River is a “Killing Zone”

Florida’s Indian River Lagoon Is A “Killing Zone” Of Mass Animal Deaths: Report (VIDEO)

Posted: 06/20/2013 10:38 am EDT  |  Updated: 06/20/2013 11:39 am EDT

Dozens of bottlenose dolphins have succumbed to the “killing zone” of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.

Day after day, dolphins floated up dead, emaciated down to their skeletons. Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, considered one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America, was in dire crisis. 200024414-001

And it wasn’t just the 46 dead bottlenose dolphins. The casualty list is long and depressing: gone are 47,000 acres of sea grass beds, 111 manatees, and 300 pelicans, reports Fox News.

It’s been described as a “killing zone” and a “mass murder mystery” that is perplexing biologists.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that scientists believe it may be due to one or several causes: fertilizer-laced stormwater runoff, polluted water dumped from Lake Okeechobee by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, climate change and effects on acidity, changes in water temperature and salt levels, and overflow from contaminated mosquito-control ditches.

The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University was counting on $2 million in state funds to study the dead bodies piling up at Indian River Lagoon.

Except Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the research project in May, writing in his veto letter “While some water projects may also contribute to a statewide objective, not all projects demonstrate an ability to contribute to a statewide investment.”

Since Scott took office in 2009, his smaller government approach has slashed regulation and conservation programs, reports the Broward New Times.

He even reportedly replacedexperienced Department of Environmental Protection employees with people from polluting industries.

Scott also recently put the state’s water quality under the DEP as opposed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The new changes would be significant because many are less-stringent than the bare minimum recommended by the Environmental Protection Agencyand existing standards in Alabama,” a former member of Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission told the Orlando Sentinel.

Meanwhile Marty Baum of the Indian Riverkeeper told Fox News, “The lagoon is in a full collapse, it is ongoing.”

How you can help: Adopt a manatee through the Save The Manatee Club, which rehabilitates sea cows and works to protect their habitats.