FORT PIERCE — Fish, shrimp and other
Indian River Lagoon creatures will get more places to hide and
eat, thanks to a new artificial reef project implemented by
the St. Lucie County Mosquito Control District.
Reef balls — the same hole-pocked, concrete domes that
Martin County school children sank in Jensen Beach waters last
year — will be added to the restored marshy area known as Bear
Point Mitigation Bank.
The manmade reefs
are part of a state-mandated study that will document the
movement of fish throughout the waters of Bear Point, which is
also managed to control the mosquito population.
"It's a practical study, because we know the marine life is
already using it," said Jim David, director of mosquito
St. Lucie County is working with scientists at Harbor
Branch Oceanographic Institution to monitor fish movements
with sensors and tags.
After sinking 18 reef balls next week — in six locations
within the marsh — the scientists will be able to use the
sensors to track fish swimming throughout the area.
The reef balls will be prefabricated, and the cost is
$8,200 for the reefs and $18,000 for the monitoring work.
The reefs will be in the mosquito impoundment area for at
least five years, he added.
David said the district is also working with the
Smithsonian Institution to monitor the shrimp population in
the impoundment marshes, which have culverts connecting the
marsh to the lagoon.
"They're already surprised to see the shrimp moving into
the impoundment so quickly," he said. "Prior to installation
of the culverts, there was no oxygen or shrimp. After
installing the culvert, we had shrimp a couple inches long."
The shrimp study costs $6,000.
In a related issue, St. Lucie County Erosion District
Manager Richard Bouchard said an artificial reef about 1,000
feet offshore in the Atlantic Ocean has been completed.
The five-acre reef — which cost $2.79 million split between
the county, state and federal agencies — was created to offset
negative impacts of the South Beach renourishment project that
started in 1999, he said.
Made of lime rock boulders, the reef is designed to
replicate the natural "hard bottom" habitat found offshore in
St. Lucie County.
Bouchard said the county will monitor the new reef, which
is marked with buoys, for the next few years to ensure its
stability and longevity.