State and Local Funds Awarded to the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative

March.25.2015

PALM BEACH COUNTY —State and local governments have committed a combined $4,150,000 to the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative, an interagency organization that protects Lake Worth Lagoon coastal habitats. With these extra funds, the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative will expand its restoration of seagrasses, mangroves and oyster reef habitats along with the construction of stormwater control projects. Coastline monitoring will assess the lagoon‘s environmental health, including its water quality, and track the restoration and natural construction projects along the shoreline.

“This initiative will provide long-term environmental, recreational and economic benefits to the region,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “Improving water quality in Lake Worth Lagoon will support the wildlife population and provide an ecotourism destination that supports fishing and kayaking activities.”

The Lake Worth Lagoon estuary, stretching for 20 miles along the shores of 13 municipalities from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach, provides habitat for many endangered and threatened species. The lagoon’s living shorelines provide important habitat for marine organisms, feeding areas for birds and shelter for a variety of wildlife. Mangrove habitat serves as a nursery for juvenile fish and traps sediments in its roots, providing a natural defense for coastal erosion.

“We have seen success in monitoring water quality, restoring seagrasses and planning new protection projects under the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board member Melanie Peterson. “This work highlights the effectiveness of the lagoon partnership, and the additional investment will help ensure we continue to deliver results for a significant South Florida waterway.”

Human activities have degraded lagoon habitat and water quality, and runoff from residential and commercial growth around the lagoon continues to stress this valuable urban estuary. Along with educating residents about the lagoon’s importance, the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative has focused on restoring the shoreline to a healthier, more natural state. Grant funds will allow the following initiative projects to continue and expand:

  • Artificial Reef Projects along the Peanut Island Reef Complex, located in the city of Riviera Beach, will create reef habitat to benefit marine life and enhance recreational snorkeling and diving. These reef structures will provide important marine refuge during prolonged high-volume inflows of freshwater into the Lake Worth Lagoon system.
  • The Grassy Flats Restoration Project will create more than 12 acres of seagrass, mangrove, salt marsh and oyster habitat in a degraded area of the lagoon. The creation of extra wetland will restore critical estuarine habitat for fisheries and wildlife and improve water quality.
  • Living Shoreline Projects along West Palm Beach Currie Park, Bryant Park and Old Bridge Park will create new mangrove, Spartina cordgrass and oyster reef   habitats that were removed as a result of development. Restored shoreline will provide an important marine refuge during prolonged high-volume freshwater inflows into the Lake Worth Lagoon system. A natural living shoreline will absorb waves and boat wakes, prevent erosion, increase the life span of the seawalls and enhance recreational fishing opportunities.
  • Various monitoring projects will track the health of lagoon habitats, including the populations of oyster, seagrass and fish in the area.

“The habitat and water quality benefits that have accrued to the Lagoon are simply amazing,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick. “Fisheries have rebounded, and birds are nesting where they haven’t been seen in decades.Snorkelers, kayakers and bird watchers are enjoying the sights. It is wonderful to see what this partnership is accomplishing.”

The Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative is an interagency collaboration that includes the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Palm Beach County, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida League of Cities. Through this program, over $17 million in state funds and $59 million in local funds have been dedicated to restoring Lake Worth Lagoon to date.

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