Grand Canal mini reef pilot program off to great start

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Another topic during the December 9th Siesta Key Association meeting was the status of the Grand Canal Regeneration Project, which was unveiled during the SKA’s November session.

Phil Chiocchio, a member of the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum, and SKA Director Jean Cannon reported that 21 people had signed up for the pilot program the SKA board approved in November.

The goal was 10 homeowners.

The residents/volunteers live in the Siesta Key Circle and Tropical Circle neighborhoods, Cannon noted as she referenced a slide she showed the members.

On December 18th, Cannon continued, the first mini reefs would be installed under docks at the persons’ homes.

As Chiocchio has explained to SKA members during past presentations, the mini reefs are devices produced by a nonprofit organization called Ocean Reefs Inc. The mini reefs attract sea creatures such as oysters and crabs, which clean the surrounding water, leading to a higher level of oxygen in the canal. As the water quality improves, he has pointed out, fish and manatees are attracted to the area.

Cannon also showed the members a video featuring an island resident named Lorraine Stanford, who lives on the 9-mile-long Grand Canal. About two years ago, Stanford explained, she bought a mini reef, which a farther-and-son team then installed under her dock. As the water quality has improved around her dock, she added, she and her family members have been seeing a lot more fish.

“All of our neighbors have docks,” Stanford noted. If all of them installed mini reefs, she said, the water quality would become even better.

Ocean Habitats’ website notes, “Each Mini Reef can support hundreds of fish, crabs and shrimp each year and will start to develop a complete ecosystem … as soon as it enters the water. … A Mini Reef will filter on average 30,0000 gallons of water per day once fully developed.”
Each device is about 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet, the website points out. “It floats so the filter feeders attached to the unit will always be where 90% of their food source is found,” which is within 24 inches of the surface of the water.

A mini reef costs $300, including installation, Cannon said on December 9th. The SKA is seeking donations to facilitate the pilot program, she added, noting that people can send emails for more information to SiestaKeyAssociation1947@gmail.com.

Mini reefs make a great holiday gift, Cannon said.

Chiocchio also explained that baseline measurements will be taken at each location where a mini reef is installed for the project. John M. Ryan, interim senior manager of Sarasota County’s Stormwater Environmental Utility has donated “a whole bagful of Secchi disks,” which are used to test for levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity and nitrogen and phosphorus, Chiocchio added.

If homeowners in the pilot program wish to undertake their own water sampling, Chiocchio said, the SKA can provide them with disks.

“We will be doing sampling all the way through this,” Cannon noted.

Chiocchio’s goal is to see vast improvement in the Grand Canal by the time it marks its 100th birthday, which will be in 2025. Moreover, he said, the nonprofit Suncoast Waterkeeper organization “wants to use this [pilot program] as a test …”

Sarasota County has 100 miles of dead-end canals, he pointed out, though the Grand Canal is “one of the nastiest areas.”

“Spread the word to your neighbors,” Cannon continued. “This is a neighbor-to-neighbor project.”

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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