News Releases

Project restoring Grassy Flats in Lake Worth Lagoon finishes successfully

News Release

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291

Today’s completion of the planting of nearly 4,000 marsh grass plugs and 200 mangrove seedlings represents the final touch to a multiyear restoration project in a portion of the Lake Worth Lagoon. This project is designed to restore critical marine habitats so fish, oysters and wildlife will return to an area known as Grassy Flats that was previously uninhabitable because of accumulated muck on the seafloor.

Preliminary signs of the restoration’s success are apparent. American oystercatchers and least terns began nesting on newly created islands upon completion of the project. Both are state-listed imperiled species.

This dynamic project involved many stages, one of which was spreading 51,000 cubic yards of sand over 13 acres of the lagoon using specialized equipment. The sand was used to cap muck sediments on the lagoon seafloor and construct two islands. Later stages of the project included placing thousands of tons of limestone rock around the man-made islands to protect them and planting thousands of native wetland plants.

More than 50 volunteers, including those from the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and the Youth Environmental Alliance, have helped with the planting effort.

“The Grassy Flats restoration project in Palm Beach County’s Lake Worth Lagoon is restoring mangrove, seagrass, oyster and saltmarsh habitats, and creating healthier communities for fish and wildlife,” said Kent Smith, who leads FWC’s Marine and Estuarine Habitat Conservation and Restoration subsection.

Most of the sand used was made available through beneficial reuse. Non-beach compatible sand was transferred from a dredge project in the South Lake Worth Inlet, making the lagoon project more cost-efficient. Over time, seagrass will naturally move back in from surrounding areas, followed by the return of fish.

The challenge of restoring Palm Beach County’s largest estuary and reviving its appeal to anglers, bird watchers and boaters attracted support from national, state and local levels. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was one of many partners engaged in the effort, as were the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, town of Palm Beach, city of Lake Worth, West Palm Beach Fishing Club and Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

“The Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership was pleased to endorse the Grassy Flats project for the benefits it will bring to coastal habitats and water quality,” said Emily Greene of the partnership. “We commend the efforts of the project team in developing an innovative approach to fish habitat conservation, and forging partnerships across jurisdictions.”

“Palm Beach County was excited to work with so many partners on a nationally significant project to enhance the lagoon’s valuable natural resources and boost opportunities for people to enjoy the area,” said Rob Robbins, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management.

For more on habitat conservation and restoration, go to MyFWC.com, click on “Wildlife & Habitats,” then “Habitat Information.” For more on the Grassy Flats project, go to PBCgov.org, click on “Departments,” then “Environmental Resources Management.” On the right side of that webpage, select “Project Fact Sheets.”



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