SOUTH HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. — St. Lucie County announced Tuesday construction has begun on a reef inside the Fort Pierce Inlet just off Raccoon Island.
Officials said this in preparation for a sand-bypass trap to collect beach-quality sand that gets pulled into the inlet.
Large limestone boulders are already being placed within 10 to 18 feet of water in the inlet north of the Intracoastal Waterway.
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The county said, "the mitigation reef is needed to offset anticipated impacts to low-relief, hard bottom documented within the future sand trap construction area."
Officials said the reef will also act as a habitat for juvenile fish, such as gag and black grouper, that spend their early life in the Indian River Lagoon. As these fish grow, they move through the Fort Pierce Inlet to reefs and artificial reefs offshore.
Experts said limestone boulder and wormrock reefs in the Fort Pierce Inlet provide protection for these fish from larger predators.
St. Lucie County said the sand trap, scheduled to be built on the north side of the Fort Pierce Inlet, will create an area deeper than the normal depth of the inlet to allow sand pulled into the Fort Pierce Inlet to be collected for later distribution back onto the beaches.
Boaters should use caution within the areas around Raccoon Island to ensure safety.
The county said the cost of the project is $567,478 and expected to last until mid-June.