By Jane Bartnett
Recently, the Siesta Key Association received a $9,000 Sarasota County Neighborhood Grant to support the installation of 30 new mini-reefs on Commonwealth Lane, on Siesta Key’s man-made, 9-mile-long Grand Canal.
As part of the group’s Grand Canal Regeneration Project that began in 2020, the reefs will join the 121 that were previously installed on docks, seawalls or piers in the canal during the past year.
According to the civic group’s Jean Cannon, there are “approximately 857 homes with docks in the Grand Canal that can use mini-reefs.”
Cannon noted that another 30 mini-reefs have also been installed in other areas outside of the canal and she said recently “10 or so Siesta Key residents have requested mini-reef installs for October/November.”
Since the project began, the effort has continued to gain support from Siesta Key homeowners as well as Sarasota County government, Mote Marine, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Students from the Out-of-Door Academy as well as Ringling College have also joined the project and are volunteering their time for the water conservation effort.
Once homeowners purchase the mini-reef and grant their permission to have it installed, scientists from the non-profit Ocean Habitat attach the reefs 27 feet under the water. Each unit costs approximately $300.
Created by Florida oceanographers, scientists anticipate that each mini-reef will have a 500-year lifespan and filter 30,000 gallons of water per day. Once attached, the mini-reefs float and water flows through them. Oxygen levels increase and the quality of the water improves. In a short period of time, blue crabs, stone crabs, sponges, a variety of fish including mangrove snappers and juvenile red fish, will make the mini-reef their home.
“A food chain grows up around the dock,” said Cannon, adding that in the course of three to six months oysters begin to grow.
Earlier this year, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program awarded the association a $1,469 grant to introduce aeration devices around the mini-reefs already installed.
Volunteers with a variety of skills and talents are needed for project. Those interested in supporting the environmental effort in the areas of website development, educational outreach, and hands-on help and monetary donations are asked to contact Cannon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit siestakeyassociation.com to learn more.