ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Lake George and Silver Glen Springs in Marion County, Fla., are getting an aquatic habitat boost during the week of Earth Day.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the U.S. Forest Service and Duke Energy are leading a freshwater habitat restoration project this week with assistance from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The team is planting more than 5,000 new freshwater eelgrass plants in the shallow areas in Lake George and Silver Glen Springs.
Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida, historically had thousands of acres of submersed plants. However, in recent years, hurricanes Matthew and Irma wiped out much of the aquatic vegetation.
The project is made possible with funding from the FWC and in-kind eelgrass donations and technical assistance from Duke Energy via the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.
“This important work will jumpstart habitat restoration for many sportfish species and other wildlife in Lake George,” said Eric Sutton, FWC executive director. “We celebrate these exceptional partnerships that help enhance Florida’s natural places for future generations to enjoy.”
In addition to providing food and habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species, eelgrass, a native aquatic plant species, can enhance water quality. Since 2014, Duke Energy has provided more than 8 million aquatic plants like eelgrass for restoration projects in Florida. The plants are grown at the company’s Mariculture Center at the Crystal River Energy Complex, about 85 miles north of Tampa.
“Duke Energy is proud to join with community organizations to responsibly manage and restore our waterways and natural resources,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. “From eelgrass to sea turtles, we continuously look for sustainable ways to more effectively protect Florida’s native species and their habitats and be good environmental stewards.”
“For many animals, habitat loss is a major threat,” said Andrew Walker, Foundation President & CEO of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. “We’re elated that Duke Energy has stepped forward in what we hope is a long-term partnership to reverse this threat in Florida’s ecosystems.”
Three varieties of eelgrass are being planted to increase the likelihood they will take root. The newly planted areas will be protected with fenced enclosures until the eelgrass becomes established. The enclosures will be marked by tall PVC pipes with reflective markings.
For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lakes.
The FWC and partners continually work together to enhance and restore fish and wildlife habitat in Florida. For more information about the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration projects, visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats, click on “Habitat,” then “Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration.”
Since 1994, the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida has raised and given away more than $50 million in grants to the FWC and many other public and private partners.
Duke Energy’s Mariculture Center supports recreational fishing and the environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico by cultivating and releasing more than 4 million fish and crustaceans into the gulf. Since opening in 1991, the center has become one of the most successful marine-stocking programs in Florida.
The center also grows submerged aquatic vegetation, such as freshwater eelgrass and saltwater marsh species including mangroves and cordgrass. Since 2014, the center has provided more than 8 million individual plants for springs and lake restoration projects as well as living shoreline projects along the Florida Panhandle and Nature Coast.
Media line: 800.559.3853
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission