Push is on to restore dying mangrove forest near Marco Island - PHOTOS/POLL

The work is estimated to cost $600,000 plus other costs already paid

Dead mangroves line part of the road off State Road 92 near Goodland and Marco Island on Thursday, January 20, 2011. A rescue is under way of a dying mangrove forest between Marco Island and Goodland. More than 60 acres of mangroves has died along State Road 92 and another 200 acres has high sulfur levels and is near death. Another 200 more acres is threatened. Allie Garza/Staff

Photo by ALLIE GARZA // Buy this photo

Dead mangroves line part of the road off State Road 92 near Goodland and Marco Island on Thursday, January 20, 2011. A rescue is under way of a dying mangrove forest between Marco Island and Goodland. More than 60 acres of mangroves has died along State Road 92 and another 200 acres has high sulfur levels and is near death. Another 200 more acres is threatened. Allie Garza/Staff

Mangrove scientist Robin Lewis is the scheduled guest speaker at 2 p.m. Friday at Mackle Park on Marco Island to discuss plans to restore a dying mangrove forest along State Road 92.

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— Mangrove experts have hatched a plan to rescue a dying mangrove forest on the edge of Marco Island.

Monitors have counted 64 acres of dead mangroves and another 209 acres of stressed mangroves along State Road 92 between Marco Island and Goodland. Another 200 acres of mangroves are at risk if something isn’t done, they say.

What once was a lush green stand of mangroves providing nursery habitat for fish, and roosting and foraging spots for wading birds, has become a muddy moonscape of leafless tree trunks.

“It looks like a nuclear bomb went off if you drive out Route 92,” said Marco Island resident Bob Olson, who is spreading the word about the problem and trying to raise money to fix it.

The die-off, on both sides of S.R. 92 about a mile west of Goodland, has been decades in the making, scientists say. The construction of S.R. 92 in 1938 cut off water flow into and out of the mangroves fed by Fruit Farm Creek. Heavy rains that came with Hurricane Andrew in 1992 flooded the forest. By 1995, the die-off was evident.

Too much water serves up a double-whammy. First, it essentially drowns the forest by covering parts of the black mangroves’ root systems they need to deliver oxygen to the trees. Waterlogged soils lead to a buildup of toxins that causes a rotten-egg smell that wafts through nearby neighborhoods.

Last summer, crews cleaned out the existing culverts under S.R. 92 that had been clogged with dirt and blocked by a tangle of Brazilian pepper.

More needs to be done, said Central Florida-based mangrove restoration expert Robin Lewis. The restoration plan involves building three more culverts beneath S.R. 92 and cutting new tidal channels into three areas of the forest where mangroves are dead or dying. The work is estimated to cost $600,000, and there is no doubt that it will work, Lewis said.

“I would describe it as a slam dunk,” he said.

Lewis, president of nonprofit Coastal Resources Group based in Salt Springs, Fla., has undertaken more than 200 mangrove restorations all over the world, including a similar restoration project in Clam Bay on the edge of the Pelican Bay neighborhood in North Naples.

The Fruit Farm Creek mangroves are part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which has been working with Lewis and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on the fix.

The team is filing applications for state and federal environmental permits to do the work. They could be in hand by this summer.

Coming up with the restoration plan is only the start. The project also has to come up with some money.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a $50,000 grant last summer to kick start the design and engineering for the permit applications. Another $25,000 is needed to finish the permitting phase, which is proceeding even though the money has run out, Lewis said.

Project leaders are hoping to win a $450,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to do the restoration work. That grant would require another $150,000 in matching money from other sources.

Olson, the Marco man cheering on the project, said he is optimistic that funding won’t stand in the way of restoration.

“This is a problem we can solve,” Olson said.

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Comments » 5

ajm3s writes:

Was the lack of water drainage/flow a suggestion offered by Ms. Ward, as well, when she took on the herculean effort to discover and restore culverts under RT92, that have not been cleared or maintained over the years?

And she has pursued this all without the mantle of an advanced degree on her wall; or monetary funding by the county or city of Marco Island who is responsible for maintenance. But then again, I believe she simply wants to get the work done rather than discuss who, how or why it must be done. Nor does she need a long list of accreditation to justify her work. It does not require an advanced degree to make an assessment of poor tidal water management, which simply requires maintaining culverts, as a start to rectifying the problem.

Sometimes, digging out blocked culverts has more of an impact. But in this world with an overindulgence with consultants and reviews, we sometimes cannot resolve the problem because we spend more time evaluating it.

Again, I applaud Ms. Ward for doing the dirty work. A true citizen of Marco Island and a shining example of JFK's memorable words spoken at his inaugural speech, in which he states: ".... my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. ".

http://www.famousquotes.me.uk/speeche...

And to demonstrate such at the local level is noble and grand. And qualities of a true patriot.

Brisla writes:

Put the high school there. And a park.

happyhorowitz34145 writes:

in response to Brisla:

Put the high school there. And a park.

Actually, is this not the same area that the city wants to place the new sewerage treatment plant?
Conspiracy Theory!!!!!
Was this all part of a big plan by the City?
Let's ask Joel, maybe this is why the city never cleaned the culverts and now that Mrs. Ward has, it would explain alot.

KatieAnn (Inactive) writes:

There have been complaints made by many over the years in regards to the drainage culverts...not just by Ms. Ward.

There have been complaints over the decades..in regards to the development effecting the environment...and the impact humans have on the natural beauty and eco-system of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades...which includes...Marco Island.

If only we all were as intelligent and environmentally concerned as we profess to be.

chinkley writes:

Great Article and I hope a great solution.

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