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Mangrove restoration to begin

By Staff | Jul 9, 2020

Mangroves that were damaged one year ago due to botched maintenance work project by the city of Cape Coral will be replaced next weekend, weather permitting.

Local non-profit group Keep Lee County Beautiful, in conjunction with the city and with 15 volunteers from the Cape Coral group “Citizens for the Preservation of Four Mile Cove” will plant 164 mangroves along the shoreline at Coral Pointe Canal on July 18.

This is the last box on a checklist mandated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on what the city needed to do to remedy its July 2019 maintenance work that’s purpose, according to the city, was the removal of invasive exotic vegetation from the canal bank which impeded draining and restricted navigation. In the process, according to FDEP, they damaged mangroves, which are protected in Florida.

Mike Thomas, program manager with Keep Lee County Beautiful said they were more than happy to take part in this replanting project.

“Myself and our volunteers love to do this,” Thomas said. “Planting projects are fun, it’s always a fun time. We do quite a few of these events for all of the cities here in the county.”

Volunteers will be ferried over on boats from the launch site to the restoration location. KLCB will provide all of the necessary equipment for volunteers, who will dig about a foot into the soft ground, place the plant and secure it with dirt. Volunteers will be spread out in small groups along the shoreline.

Member of the Cape Coral preservation group and resident Joe Cruz said he’s glad to see things coming together along the shorelines, but also shared displeasure with the execution of hydroseeding the shoreline.

“Hopefully the 18th will come and the weather will be in our favor and we’ll get these mangroves planted and in place and from there it’s up to Mother Nature to do her thing,” Cruz said.

The 164 one-gallon plants will be used to fill in a 600-foot area of shoreline where mangrove trees have not started to restore themselves on their own after the damage.

Cruz said he was happy to see the city and Keep Lee County Beautiful come together on this project.

“It’s definitely a plus,” Cruz said. “Leave it in the hands of the people that really care what’s going on.”

While the replanting of protected mangroves is a step in the right direction, Cruz said there is a long road ahead for the area to get back to what it once was.

“It will be at least five or six years before this is anywhere near where it used to be,” Cruz said. “And I don’t believe they are planting sufficient vegetation to really bring this back to where it should be, but I’m happy for whatever we can get.”

Mangroves are vital to the ecology of shorelines and waterways throughout the state. They provide a habitat and nursery for many Florida species both in the water and throughout the branches and are great protectors of shorelines due to their complex and strong rooting patters.

“Fish density around mangroves is around 30 times higher,” Thomas said. “It’s essentially a nursery for fish and also birds. They also protect the shoreline. The root structure is so massive and intense. It takes a lot to wear that shoreline away once those roots have gotten into the ground. They help build up a little bit of the bank as well.”

This parcel of land is also up for Lee County’s 20/20 Conservation program. The proposal was submitted in February and no official decision has been made up to this point.

“From Conservation 20/20, the only thing that we have been privy to and that we know of is that the negotiations are still ongoing,” Cruz said. “We haven’t heard of any roadblocks or hiccups at the moment.”

The city began work along the canal on May 26. Their duties to FDEP involved mobilizing equipment to the project site, the removal of invasive species (Australian pines), bank reshaping, berm building, hydroseeding and mangrove planting. The city stated that an agreement between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the City allows up to 120 days for remediation work to be completed. In July of 2019, the City received a warning letter from the FDEP after protected mangroves were removed during the canal maintenance project.

KLCB is in its 31st year in the county. Thomas said its main focus is education, but they also do countless cleanup jobs throughout the year in waterways, beaches, roads and more. Last year KLCB gathered more than 52,000 pounds of litter. They also host many replanting projects throughout the county similar to this project coming up with Cape Coral.

For more information on KLC, visit www.klcb.org.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj