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Projects take proactive step on HAB

By Staff | Apr 23, 2019

James Evans

The city of Sanibel is working on obtaining a field permit from the state for two pilot programs aimed at removing red drift algae and the nutrients associated with it from local shorelines and waters.

At the April 2 meeting of the Sanibel City Council, Mayor Kevin Ruane and Natural Resources Director James Evans reported that the city had received proposals for the two projects. At the time, Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach were seeing high accumulations of red drift algae on their shores.

“Sanibel’s general approach is to let nature take its course,” Evans said on April 18. “That’s generally how we manage our beaches.”

But, with major imbalances in the system such as harmful algae blooms like red ride and red drift algae, the occurrences can contribute nutrients into the water and on beaches and continue to fuel the events. He noted that nitrogen and phosphorus are two of the main nutrients associated with them.

“We’re trying to mitigate future impacts,” Evans said of the pilot projects.

The first program will look at new ways to “rake the beach” of algae on the shoreline.

“The pilot project would be used to evaluate different types of equipment to remove algae from the beach,” he said, adding that the equipment could be set at a height to preserve shells and such.

The second program will tackle algae before it reaches the land.

“How to harvest the algae from the water itself. To pull the algae into an area where it can actually be harvested,” Evans said, adding that it would reduce the impact to nesting sea turtles and shorebirds.

“We want to look at opportunities for removing that,” he said.

For the past few weeks, the city has been working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to acquire a field permit to implement the pilot programs and conduct the research.

“We provided them with additional information they have requested,” Evans said of the current status.

The city anticipates working in conjunction with the town of Fort Myers Beach.

“The data is applicable to both of our beaches,” he said.

Evans explained that the red drift algae deposits on Sanibel are significantly less than they were weeks ago. But Fort Myers Beach was still seeing accumulations, so the projects may be conducted there.

“They are already doing some raking on their beaches,” he said.

At the council meeting, Ruane noted that Lee County Tourist Development Council funds have historically paid for red drift algae removal, so funding may be available for the programs.

“The sooner we get it out of the water, the better off we are,” Ruane said.