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Protecting our Marine Water Systems

Rocks and Seagrass Beds of Site 2
Rocks and Seagrass Beds of Site 1

My children and I recently visited the areas of Project Greenshores. We had a great time seeing the numerous amounts of crabs, small fish and birds which have made Site 1 and 2 their homes. People were there from the FDEP to collect water and species samples as well as to give an educational tour.

Crab Watching
Crab Watching

While we were there listening, I began thinking about the numerous amounts of money, people and time it takes to restore these saltmarshes and oyster reefs and decided to write about a couple of easy ways for us to help prevent problems to our sensitive water systems before they occur. The first things that came to mind were boater awareness and lawn maintenance.

In our community, we have water all around us and many people spend a lot of time boating. One thing boaters can do to protect the balance of water systems is to be careful not to uproot seagrasses.

Seagrasses are plants totally adapted to living underwater. They create a stable and protected habitat for marine life. Once a seagrass bed is destroyed it can take up to ten years to grow back naturally. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the seagrass beds of Project Greenshores “will provide habitat for many fish and invertebrate species, help stabilize the Bay bottom thus reducing turbidity (from boats and barges), and serve as a nursery area for 70-95% of the commercially harvested species in this region.” This is good news for our bay and the local economy. 

FDEP Boaters near Project Greenshores
Cautious Boaters near Site 2

Therefore to prevent damage to our seagrass beds the Department of Environmental Protection offers five simple steps for boaters:

1. Know your boat and be familiar with the boat’s draft. As a general rule, there should be at least a foot between the boat’s propeller and the top of the seagrasses.

2. Be familiar with the local waterways. Estuarine and coastal environments change constantly, making navigation tricky.

3. Be aware of how tide and wind conditions affect boating. It is common for seagrass beds to be completely exposed during low tides.

4. Turn the motor off and drift into deeper water, if you run aground.

5. Use a trolling motor and push pole for fishing in shallow water.

For more info: Florida Boater’s Guide

Another problem for our area is with stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is rainwater that cannot be absorbed by the soil during a storm event and runs into our waterways.

It has become the largest source of polluting nutrients, which can lead to an imbalance called eutrophication. Too many nutrients can reduce seagrass productivity. While The City of Pensacola works on the challenges of stormwater treatment, we can use caution in our landscaping.

Stormwater picks up herbicides and pesticides applied to the lawn or garden and run off into waterways and make their way into the food chain. Not to mention, it’s not the safest environment for children to play.  So, I looked into some landscaping options.

Here are some tips from experts I am trying with my own yard:

* Burnout- an organic weed killer
* Less watering- removing some grass and replacing with stone pavers
* Soil testing kit for under $20-only put on my lawn what it needs
* Aerating soil to help grass grow stronger-aerators can be rented from garden centers
* Compost fertilizer
* Mowing without a bag to let clippings fertilize naturally

While some damage from hurricanes and other things may not be preventable, all of us can do something to help. It just takes some time and planning. Prevention is the easier and most cost effective route to help keep us all enjoying the benefits of our beautiful Gulf Coast waters.

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