OCTOBER 18, 2018

Angler Action Foundation Works to Restore Caloosahatchee River Grass Flats

The Angler Action Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Protection and biologists from Sea and Shoreline, LLC, will begin planting eel grass and widgeon grass in three areas within the upper basin of the Caloosahatchee River with the goal to restore grass flats lost to freshwater outflows from Lake Okeechobee and to reclaim marine habitats lost during those periods. The Angler Action Foundation Seagrass Initiative is the first phase in the foundation’s mission to replace lost marine habitats across the state. Subsequent phases are currently slated for the Indian River Lagoon. “This isn’t a pilot project. There have been pilot projects for the past 10 years that have shown that this project will work,” said Carter Henne, president of Sea and Shoreline, LLC. “Those previous pilot projects have performed well and not been negatively impacted by bluegreen algae blooms of the past.” This $1 million project, funded by the Department of Environmental Protection, will be centered around three sites, two east I-75 and one west. Those sites will feature a seagrass that is tolerant to freshwater and a freshwater grass that is amenable to brackish water. It will also feature Sea and Shoreline’s trademark “Exclusion Devices”, essentially cages built around the newly planted grasses that prevent predation by manatees, turtles, ducks and other animals that eat plants. The cages allow the grasses to grow closer to the surface of the water and seed other areas downstream. “From an Angler Action Foundation perspective, this is one of the most unique and successful approaches to habitat revitalization,” said Brett Fitzgerald, executive director of the Angler Action Foundation. “Our mission is to protect and preserve habitats and this project will not only do both of those things, but create more habitat as the grasses spread with the tide.” The project will be independently documented by Johnson Engineering, which will track a litany of metrics, including fish, shrimp and crab recruitment, sediment stabilization and nitrogen, phosphate and carbon uptake, among others. “I have been investigating Vallisneria restoration in the Caloosahatchee River since 2002 and conducted five pilot projects over 15 years,” said David Ceilley, Senior Aquatic Ecologist for Johnson Engineering. “This project will be beneficial to the Caloosahatchee on many different levels.”