VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Conservationists and Volusia County homeowners are teaming up to help save manatees and other marine life in the Indian River Lagoon.
So far in 2021, 696 manatees have died, passing the total amount in all of 2020. Scientists blame the lack of seagrass, which is being killed off by algae growth from pollution runoff and development of seawalls.
“The seagrasses will come back we just have to give them that little bump,” said Kelli McGee, the executive director of the Riverside Conservancy.
McGee said the organization is now using a grant to restore a quarter mile of shoreline on the Indian River Lagoon and it’s asking waterfront property owners in Volusia County to volunteer their shorelines.
“We will put structures in the water that mimic the natural structures that are found whether it be oyster reefs, mangrove roots, things that can retrofit seawalls,” she said.
McGee said it won’t cost the property owners anything and they’ll do all the work.
“People can keep their view, they can have their dock and they can have abundant fish,” she said.
She said it could also help prevent flooding and erosion.
County councilman Dan Robins has helped install and test out micro-reefs under several docks along the Halifax River. He is working with the conservancy to create the living shorelines and explore other options.
“It’d be wrong of me or a government official to sit here and tell you how to do some of this stuff on your property but if you educate people I think it’s really going to hit home,” he said.
He thinks the project could have an enormous impact if more homeowners get on board and take initiative themselves to fix the lagoon.
“It’s hard getting anything done involving the government. I think we all know that and that’s not me being a ‘Karen’ or negative Nancy but it’s just a fact,” he said.
McGee said the project is just starting and they’re working with other local organizations that are replanting seagrass.
“We’re in the beginning stages but now we’re finally ready to standardize the practice somewhat to make it available to more people,” she said.
Property owners who want to take part just need to email the conservancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.