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St. Lucie dropping artificial reef balls off Bear Point

The manmade reefs are part of a state-mandated study that will document the movement of fish through Bear Point.

By Suzanne Wentley staff writer
May 27, 2004

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 control.

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.

- suzanne.wentley@scripps.com



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