Collaborative Seagrass Effort Launches to Protect the Indian River Lagoon


FPUA LogoSeagrass research led by FPUA, the Manatee Center, and Treasure Coast Manatee Foundation

Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, through the Manatee Observation and Education Center, and in partnership with the Treasure Coast Manatee Foundation (TCMF), launched a grant-funded seagrass research initiative last Friday (July 7, 2023) at the Fort Pierce Yacht Club in Downtown Fort Pierce. Together with seagrass restoration experts Sea & Shoreline, the groups are restoring one and one-half acres of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), with future plans for more.

Seagrass is vital to the area because it improves water quality by cycling out excess nutrients, provides food, protection and habitat for manatees, turtles, and other sea life, oxygenates the water column for plant and animal life, stabilizes the sediment, and sequesters carbon to help offset climate change.

Made possible by approximately $40,000 of grant funding from the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP) and nearly $59,000 of seagrass donations from TCMF, this innovative project combines one acre of seagrass restoration in Moore’s Creek and one-half acre of meadows enhancement research on the shores of the IRL.

Research funded by the IRLNEP will help restoration experts identify the best species and blends of seagrass for effective restoration in the area. The research project features seven seagrass plots covering one-half acre.  Each plot will be protected with dowel rods allowing the seedlings to take root, followed by regular monitoring by restoration experts.

The Treasure Coast Manatee Foundation funded an additional one acre of seagrass restoration, directed at restoring seagrass in Moore’s Creek in Downtown Fort Pierce. Hundreds of manatees visit Moore’s Creek, adjacent to the Manatee Center, each year, for warm water refuge during the winter and to drink freshwater.

Manatee Center “Roving Naturalist” volunteers are also contributing to this important research. Volunteers collect manatee count data of manatees spotted in Moore’s Creek, with over 26 years of manatee counts collected to date. This data is being submitted to the IRLNEP each month and will provide a valuable resource for researchers to consider the impact of restoration over time.

FPUA and MOEC thank the IRLNEP and TCMF for their tremendous support toward environmental restoration, and for making this seagrass work possible.

This project represents one of many environmental projects led by FPUA including: relocating the sewer treatment plant off the Indian River Lagoon; lining sewer pipes with PVC to protect against inflow and outflow from cracks in aging clay pipes; installing several more acres of seagrass grant funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Resilient Florida program; and more.