Planting marks more than 1 million plugs of marsh grass for habitat restoration
APOLLO BEACH – A marsh planting Tuesday morning near Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach marked a significant habitat-restoration milestone in the Tampa Bay watershed.
More than 1 million plugs of marsh grass have been harvested and replanted from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Stock Enhancement Research Facility in Port Manatee since the creation of its donor marsh in 1997.
“We are excited to celebrate the contributions of our donor marsh by using plugs grown there to improve this new donor marsh in Apollo Beach,” said Chris Young, manager of the FWC hatchery.
Tuesday’s planting enhances the new donor marsh at the future home of a conservation and technology park - a partnership between Tampa Electric, the Florida Aquarium and the FWC. This site will soon be home to the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network’s (FYCCN) first marine-focused Youth Conservation Center.
The new marsh will feature multiple grass species that will aid in coastal and inland habitat restoration. Those grasses will also filter seawater used in a future hatchery facility on the site. The grass at the Port Manatee marsh filters seawater discharged by the current hatchery’s fish-rearing operations; leaving it cleaner than before it was used.
Several partner organizations, including Tampa Bay Watch and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, have collaborated with the FWC to plant marsh grass plugs throughout the Tampa Bay watershed to restore habitats.
“One million salt marsh plugs represents an outstanding level of achievement in the health and restoration of Tampa Bay,” said Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch. “Our community is truly fortunate to have such a wide variety of organizations all working together to ensure critical environments are protected and restored for future generations.”
Marsh grasses stabilize coastal shorelines and provide food sources and protection to fish, birds and marine mammals. Every 5,000 plugs replanted at 3-foot intervals equals one acre of restored habitat.
Summer camp participants from FYCCN partner YMCA Camp Cristina participated in the June 11 planting. “This activity is an example of the network’s efforts to encourage and empower kids to participate in traditional outdoor recreation and conservation stewardship activities,” said Rae Waddell, director of FYCCN.
For information on the Stock Enhancement Research Facility, visit MyFWC.com/Research.