Florida wetlands restoration creates habitat and supports local jobs

April 16, 2011

Salt marsh restoration.

Aerial view of the site after much of the freshwater marsh and pond regrading is completed (right). The abandoned aquaculture ponds are visible (center) and will be regraded to create salt marsh.
High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA, the Ecosphere Restoration Institute, state and local partners celebrated the restoration of nearly 70 acres of wetlands that feed into Tampa Bay today in Ruskin, Fla.

“This project restores fish and wildlife habitat lost in the 1950s when the wetlands were filled for development,” said Dr. Larry Robinson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere for NOAA. “The restoration work has helped support jobs for the community and improve important nursery habitat for fish, which is so vital to local recreational and commercial fisheries.”     

Ecosphere Restoration Institute hired local contractors to remove invasive tree species like Brazilian pepper, transform stagnant and abandoned ponds into thriving wetlands, and reconnect those wetlands to the waters of Tampa Bay.

NOAA provided $750,000 in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding to Ecosphere Restoration Institute for the project. Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District also contributed funding for the restoration.

Vegetation being mulched on site.

Exotic vegetation being mulched on site for use within the Sabal Palm Hammock to inhibit weed growth.
High Resolution (Credit: Photo courtesy: Ecosphere.)

"Without the NOAA Recovery Act funding, this project would have taken many years to complete since it would have required piecemeal implementation as funding became available," said Thomas Ries, President, Ecosphere Restoration Institute. "Instead we’ve been able to construct it in a short amount of time and with significant cost savings."

This project expands upon a 17-year restoration effort of the adjacent Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, which is nearing its final stage of completion. The restored wetlands provide important nursery and foraging habitat for numerous fish, wading birds, and frogs.

Through the Recovery Act, NOAA was provided $167 million for marine and coastal habitat restoration. This project is one of four habitat restoration projects in Florida, out of 50 total projects selected by NOAA for this funding. 

Freshwater pond after planting.

Freshwater pond after planting.
High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Most of the 50 projects will be completed within the next year. These projects are supporting thousands of short- and long-term jobs. When complete, these projects will have restored 8,700 acres of habitat and opened access to 700 stream miles for fish passage that had been blocked by obsolete and unsafe dams. The projects also will remove more than 850 metric tons of abandoned fishing gear and other marine trash, rebuild oyster and other shellfish habitat, and reduce threats to 11,750 acres of coral reefs.

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