Donation could put mini-reef program in fast lane

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With 50/50 offer, project leader hopes to add 215 structures to Siesta Key canals, bringing total beyond the halfway point

By Ned Steele

Can the Key’s canals and waterways once again sparkle with clear water and teem with healthy marine life? An ambitious project to achieve just that takes a big step forward this month, and it’s an opportunity for waterfront residents.
An anonymous donor’s $35,000 gift to an ongoing Siesta Key Association water cleanup program will nearly double the effort’s impact – and slash in half the cost for property owners to participate.
If they act by May 19, those property owners can reduce the cost of having a marine-life-regenerating artificial mini-reef installed beneath their dock by 50%, to just $166.

With the grant, said Grand Canal regeneration project leader Jean Cannon, the organization will be able to add about 215 mini reefs to the 270 already in place. In all, the Key’s waterways have 878 docks. The new push will bring the effort more than halfway to the finish line.
The mini reefs in place are already succeeding at attracting the juvenile marine life that are nature’s own water filtration system, “We’re seeing shrimp for the first time in a long time, and stone crabs, oysters, mussels, fantail worms” and more, Cannon said.
The little creatures attach themselves to the mini reefs and filter out sediments and pollutants. That brings cleaner waters that attract the bigger fish that have fled the canal in recent years.
Scientists are watching the project closely. They are actively out on the water (see story below) taking measurements, and Cannon expects to see research reports on the results in the next year:
“We are already seeing a difference in the amount of fish and marine life. Now the test is, does it improve the water quality? That’s our next step,” she said.
Young dolphins are voting yes. Cannon said they are again being seen in the canal after a longtime absence.
Citizen scientists are supporting the effort. The organization has enlisted volunteer researchers from Out-of-Door Academy and Sarasota high schools.
Homeowners who sign up for a mini-reef under their dock don’t have to do much more. The organization does all the installation work, and residents don’t even need to be home when the install takes place.
To apply for the 50/50 purchase for a mini-reef, dock owners should email or call Cannon at (941) 313-0559. Again, the deadline is Friday, May 19.
“This beautiful environment needs some stewardship,” Cannon said.

Ned Steele
Author: Ned Steele

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