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Use the highest standards possible

By Staff | Oct 27, 2010

To the editor,

In making your decision regarding the lifting of the ban on boat docks in the Bay Beach Zone, it may be helpful to look at a two year scientific study in 2001 that was conducted in St. Andrews Bay, Panama City, Fla.

The study was presented by the Corp of Engineers in a workshop to the Engineering and Development Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and DEP. The objective of the study was to show the effects of shading on sea grass by dock structures using open fiberglass mesh deck grating. Experimental docks were constructed over Thalassia testudium sea grass, commonly called turtle grass, the same sea grass found in our Bay Beach Zone where dock construction is under consideration.

The conclusion of the study demonstrated 1)“the use of fiberglass grating to increase light transmission should reduce the amount of sea grass loss due to shading by docks and terminal platforms,and 2) the method of piling installation used in this study minimizes the physical destruction and removal of sea grasses, and resulted in nearly complete regrowth of the bare area by the end of the second growing season. Although total percent cover and density are reduced somewhat, the ecological consequences of the reduction in the small area beneath the docks are not likely to be significant.”

Another study by Bell and Westoby (1986b) suggests “the total abundance and species richness in sea grass beds are ultimately controlled by larvae supply, and that larvae do not discriminate among beds based on density when they settle.” These studies can be found by Googling “ERDC TN-WRAP-01-02.”

It should be asked of the experts who testified at the Planning Commission whether their testimony included the results of these studies.

The results of the two different methods of building docks, pressure treated planking vs fiberglass mesh, would appear to have dramatically different results with regard to survival of sea grasses.

If docks were to be constructed in the Bay Beach Zone according to the standards used in the 2001 study, and consequently the sea grasses do not thrive, then it is logical to assume that other conditions are responsible for the decline. The question then becomes who or what is responsible. Is it the owners of the docks, the sugar industry, the citrus industry, mother nature or the rest of us who pollute our waters?

If the council lifts the ban and docks are built in the bay, they should require construction to the highest standards possible, using fiberglass decking,and non-leaching materials for the supporting structure and pilings. I can’t imagine any reason that would justify doing otherwise.

Don Bishop