Civic group scores grant for Grand Canal project

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SKA Launches Grand Canal Mini Reef Project

Siesta Key Association Secretary Margaret Jean Cannon, who is one of the leaders of the nonprofit’s Grand Canal Regeneration Project, has announced that the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has awarded the association a $1,469 grant to introduce aeration devices around mini reefs already installed in the Grand Canal.

The goal is to increase the level of dissolved oxygen, she explained, as that is low.

In its application, the Siesta Key Association explained the objectives of its proposal: “Dead-end canals in the Sarasota Bay watershed were built to accommodate waterfront housing. The natural habitat was removed without consideration to marine life sustainability. Subsequent legislation made adding habitat structure touching the bottom very difficult. If the structure does not touch the canal bottom, there is no permit required. This project will demonstrate the benefits of adding a floating habitat structure (a mini reef) under existing docks in public waterways. And, to assist growth, add aeration to improve dissolved oxygen levels improving sea life habitat. The regeneration project will show citizens that the marine environment can be naturally revived and enhanced with minimal human assistance. The results will be the regeneration of a sustainable juvenile fishery that will benefit everyone in the community.”

Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner pointed out on June 3 that leaders of the nonprofit worked for years to come up with ideas about how to improve the water quality in the Grand Canal.

Last year, Cannon began collaborating with Phil Chiocchio of the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum, after he made a couple of presentations to members about the effectiveness of mini reefs.

During his very first appearance at an SKA meeting — in October 2019 — Chiocchio noted that the 9-mile-long Grand Canal dates to 1925. Over the years, he explained, the dissolved oxygen level had fallen so low that the waterway had almost reached the point where “most things won’t survive.”

His goal has been to see it revived by its centennial.

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