RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County and the Port of Palm Beach are working together to curb the number of manatees dying due to lack of seagrass.
Large holes are being dug in the Intracoastal Waterway to build causeways. The holes are low oxygen spots and are essentially poor habitat for marine life.
Through the recently approved Bonefish Cove project, the Port of Palm Beach plans to fill the large holes with recycled materials.
Dredge material stored in the port's spoil site on Peanut Island will be used to construct 7.8 acres of mangrove island, 1.7 acres of oyster reef, 26.8 acres of seagrass recruitment area, and 0.2 acres of shorebird nesting habitat. In total, there will be three islands.
Experst claim the islands will promote growth for seagrass, oyster reefs, mangroves and more.
Upwards of 1,000 manatees pass through the area and due to a lack of seagrass, many are dying of starvation. Port engineer Ron Coddington said the project could change that.
"We did a lot of impact to our lagoons and our waterways as much as 100 years ago, when we were building causeways and things like this," Coddington said. "This is coming back and restoring and fixing mistakes we made in the past and hopefully to create a better future."
During April's Port of Palm Beach board meeting, the board unanimously voted to approve an agreement that would allow the county to remove about 270,000 yards of excess material from the port's dredge material management area.
The Bonefish Cove project has an estimated cost of $12 million. It will take about 18 months to build the islands.
Coddington said the habitats will start growing almost immediately.