Lake Worth Lagoon damaged by fresh water discharges

PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Lake Worth Lagoon is dotted with mangroves and sea grass.

Julie Bishop is the Environmental Program Supervisor for Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management.

"In the last 5 years we've put approximately 26 million toward restoration projects and have created about 78 acres of new habitat. As we go back to monitor those projects we have seen some impacts from all the freshwater discharges which have been rather large this year."

They're now starting to see changes in the lagoon from the discharges from the canals. Although they're  not seeing the toxic algae that the Treasure Coast has, there are still problems.

Julie Mitchell is an environmental analyst for the county, and has helped design and build these habitats.

"As a result of the freshwater discharges we've seen recently, there's a lot more of that dirt and suspended sediments in the water column and it's actually smothering the oysters," said Julie.

And all that muck has smothered the once vast beds of sea grass.

Angela Delaney is with the Coastal Eco Group who monitors the grass beds.

"This year just the preliminary data that we have we are showing the least amount that we've seen in the twelve year program," said Angela.

The new mangroves have been dying, thanks to a wood boring crustacean that is thought to be brought on by the run-off.

But all is not lost, in fact, seedlings from red mangroves that were planted in this project three years ago are sprouting, plus white mangrove seeds will fall into the water and create new mangrove trees.

With the basic groundwork set,  there's now a good chance of nature taking hold.
Mitchell says, "We're very optimistic that within a certain amount of time, 3 years, we will see some natural regeneration of mangroves, sea grass, oysters."

Once those come back, the wildlife will return, which is what the county is banking on.

Bishop says, "We have rehabilitated the system and created new habitat so we have motto, build it and they will come and it's been working for us."

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