PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After years of planning, a seven acre seagrass restoration project is happening in the West Bay portion of St. Andrew Bay.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission awarded the contract to Sea and Shoreline to help with the massive project. Crews have been working on the seagrass installation for the last two months.
Water quality and man-made issues are a couple of reason why the St. Andrew Bay is experiencing historic Cuban shoal grass losses.
“Starting in about 1960, we have lost about 200 acres in our project site alone,” said FWC St. Andrew Bay Oyster Habitat Restoration Project Manager, Becca Hatchell.
Hatchell said the seven acre restoration took years of planning.
“We went to the donor sites where we harvested from and we monitored those and made sure they were going to recover and they would not be impacted by our restoration efforts,” Hatchell said. “Everything was a huge success that told use where the best places to plant were and so here we are today.”
Hatchell said the pilot study was from 2019 to 2020 and after the planting is finished, they’ll continue to monitor the site three years.
“Hopefully we won’t be done,” Hatchell said. “We’re hoping that after even this project and we get some more information you know might be able to install more seagrass in the future.”
Sea and Shoreline Biologist, Katie Kramer, said this is one of the largest projects they have worked on.
“We’ve partnered with FWC — actually we’re contracted by FWC we have to work with them daily and make sure that everybody is on the same page,” Kramer said.
The crews harvest small amounts of grass from large areas so they have minimal impacts on the healthy sea beds that are already there. Then they use twist ties to attach the grass to metal staples.
Kramer said seagrass provides many ecological benefits.
“Those include sediment stabilizations, they removed particulates from the water column so they help clear it up, they absorb nutrients from the water column as well to help keep algae blooms down,” Kramer said.
In order to protect the new seagrass sites, FWC officials encourage boats to be aware of how shallow the water is. They suggest if you need to anchor, to do it in sandy parts of the water.