Water Quality Issues
For more than a decade, CCA Florida and hundreds of local CCA chapter members have contributed thousands of volunteer hours and acquired funding to help restore Florida's fragile marine habitat.  Volunteers have contributed to offshore and nearshore reef development, oyster bar restoration, shoreline stabilization, and planted literally hundreds of acres of saltmarsh, seagrass beds and mangroves.  Many of these projects were partially or wholly funded through foundation grants acquired by CCA Florida, CCA’s Building Conservation Trust Fund, and from donations by local CCA chapters and generous individual members.

Because of the importance of habitat and water quality to our fisheries, CCA Florida continues to substantially increase its role in the area of Florida habitat restoration and water quality.  The organization’s commitment is apparent with recent hiring of Frank Gidus, CCA’s new Director of Habitat and Environmental Restoration, as well as several new habitat projects.  As shown on CCA Florida’s statewide habitat map, CCA has been busy working on habitat projects around the state.  Take a look at the projects listed below, along with the email address for the CCA volunteer that is coordinating the project, and send that volunteer a note if you would like to get involved.  You can also contact Frank Gidus if you have an idea for a habitat project or concerns about environmental issues impacting Florida fisheries at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Project: South Walton Artificial Reef
Association (SWARA)
Chapter: South Walton
Contact: Andy McAlexander
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Andy McAlexander from the South Walton Chapter set up a non-profit association to build reefs and oyster habitat restoration projects along the gulf shores of Walton County in the Panhandle.  On July 10, 2015 the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) deployed the first half of 58 artificial reef structures off of Grayton Beach State Park.  This is the first of several snorkel and fishing reefs planned that will span across south Walton County.  The completion of this reef is set for the end of September or early October 2015.  An additional 684 structures will also be deployed sometime between Fall 2015 and Spring 2016.
SWARA has plans for multiple oyster habitat projects and near shore snorkeling and fishing reefs. The long term goal of SWARA is to improve the water quality, increase tourism and enhance the lifestyle of the local residents and visitors.  SWARA is working on some local funding to get the projects off the ground with the majority of the funds coming from BP monies set aside from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. SWARA has ambitious plans for the area and will be a huge asset for CCA in the Panhandle for years to come.

Project: Tampa Bay Watch/Fantasy Island Oyster Restoration Project
Chapter: Tampa
Contact: Don Roberts
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Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with the Florida Aquarium and CCA Florida, has proposed a shoreline stabilization project that will allow the creation of new oyster dome and oyster bar habitat along the southern shoreline of Fantasy Island.  The proposed oyster dome field and oyster shell bar have been designed to help stabilize approximately 700’ of severely eroding shoreline, provide hard bottom habitats for fish and wildlife resources and promote water quality improvements in the Tampa Bay ecosystem.  CCA Florida received a generous matching challenge grant award from the Duckwall Foundation for $25,000.CCA Florida and Tampa Bay Watch must raise $50,000 to get the matching funds.  The money will be used for the construction of the project and for community involvement.  Please contact Don Roberts if you can contribute to this important project!

This project involves the placement of 1,080 oyster domes and approximately 41.5 tons of fossilized shell along the southern shoreline of the island.  Placed Lo-Pro Reef Ball™ units will provide wave attenuation to assist with erosion control and to provide habitat for marine life.  These reef balls are well suited for the establishment of oysters that are common along the Fantasy Island shoreline and throughout Tampa Bay.  Placing the Lo-Pro’s in approximately two feet of water will allow the units to be mostly exposed during low tide and totally submerged at high tide; conditions which are optimum for oysters in Tampa Bay.  Reef ball units will create habitat by encouraging oysters and other filter feeders to attach.  The oyster dome placement will occur after the oyster shell bar has been built so as to minimize and safety issues and disturbance to the habitat.  CCA Florida and Tampa Bay Watch anticipate that all permits will be received by Fall 2015.

Project: Little Manatee River Eelgrass Restoration
Chapter: South Palm Beach, Orlando
Contact: J.D. Dickenson, Frank Gidus
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CCA Florida recently teamed up with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Research Institute (FWRI) to apply for a grant from the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP).  SARP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) provide funding opportunities for individuals, organizations and institutions to participate in the ongoing process of conservation, management and restoration.
CCA Florida and FWRI submitted the grant for funding assistance to restore American eelgrass (Vallsineria americana) to the Little Manatee River and create habitat for priority species.  V. americana is a submerged aquatic plant that provides important habitat for many species and filters pollutants form the water column.  Loss of submerged aquatic vegetation has been an ongoing problem in Florida as a result of increased saltwater intrusion, sea level rise, herbivory, and anthropogenic influences.  The intent is to identify genotypes that can withstand increased salinity and produce dense root systems, and to replant the Little Manatee River with the most productive and most tenacious genotypes.  This project will also require volunteer assistance from our members - stay tuned!

Project: USS Mohawk CGC Reef—Veterans Memorial Reef
Chapter: Tampa
Contact: Don Roberts
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CCA Florida and the Lee County Department of Natural Resources partnered to deploy the USCGC Mohawk to its final resting place. The 165-foot World War II Coast Guard Cutter, "Mohawk" was the last remaining ship of the Battle of the Atlantic.  The Mohawk was laid to rest in 90 feet of water on July 2, 2012 approximately 28 nautical miles off of Sanibel Island on Florida’s southwest coast, creating the first Veterans Memorial Reef dedicated to all U.S. veterans.

CCA Florida chartered the 90’ "Great Getaway" that transported over 100 passengers to the deployment site. The passengers included USCG 2nd Class Petty Officer Edward March who served on the Mohawk for 15 months during WWII, his family, local veterans, members of the media, local and state dignitaries and elected officials as well as CCA members from across the state of Florida. The Mohawk was laid to rest with a fresh coat of wartime camouflage paint along with her anchor chains, props, replica guns, replica depth charges and even a new whale boat was added. The official name of the reef is the U.S.S. Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef and the coordinates are 82°43'42.347"W, 26°33'14.64"N.

Project: Goggle Eye Reef
Chapter: South Palm Beach
Contact: J.D. Dickenson
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The Goggle Eye Reef was once a productive reef that was completely smothered by sand 10 to 15 years ago.  On September 15, 2015, about 700 tons of limestone boulders and scrap concrete were dumped into the ocean about a half-mile northeast of the Boynton Beach Inlet in an effort to rebuild the natural reef that had been degraded by years storms and shifting sand.  Workers on a tugboat and a 200-foot barge spent most of the day at the reef site.  J.D. Dickenson of the South Palm Beach chapter of the CCA Florida, which spearheaded the project, and Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management engineers monitored the reef construction.  CCA Florida raised $85,000 in grants and donations to build the reef, which will provide ideal habitats for fish on the natural limestone Goggle Eye Reef, which was covered by sand.

Most of the money for the project came from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, which contributed $55,000, and Impact 100, which awarded grants totalling $17,000. The project also received funding from CCA’s Building Conservation Trust Fund, the Merrill G. and Emita E. Hastings Foundation, and many individual contributors.  Eventually the reef will recruit sea fans and live corals and is expected to attract as many as 60 species of fish.  Near shore artificial reefs are badly needed in South Palm Beach County as many natural reefs have been eroded and covered by sand.  There are more inlets in the southern part of the county coastline and more beach renourishment projects, both of which contribute to natural reef systems being buried by shifting sands.

Project: Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation Reef
Chapter: South Palm Beach
Contact: Scott Harris, J.D. Dickenson
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Marine fisheries and recreational angling off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, recently got a boost with the placement of 40 artificial reef cells in 88 feet of water in August 2015.  The CCA Building Conservation Trust contributed $25,000 to the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation for the project, which utilized innovative reefing materials to create a thriving new ecosystem. The site for the project off Jupiter is currently flat, featureless sand plains near the existing Zion Train, Miss Jenny and ESSO Bonaire “Wreck Trek.”  The new reef cells rise up to eight feet off the sea floor and create interconnected cavities and surfaces exposed to sunlight and water current.  The structures are designed to provide a specific habitat environment favored by a wide range of marine organisms so that where there is now only flat sand, a flourishing ecosystem will develop.

The new reef site is expected to positively impact local economies by enticing anglers and divers who utilize local boat charters, hotels, restaurants and other amenities. According to Alan Richardson, chairman of the Organization for Artificial Reefs based in Tallahassee, Florida, for every dollar spent locally on an artificial reef, $138 comes back into local communities.  In addition to the Building Conservation Trust, the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation is partnering on the $78,000 project with Palm Beach County, the Town of Jupiter, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation, REEF CELLS and Jupiter Dive Center.

Project: Indian River Lagoon RISSA Buoys and Oyster Mats
Chapter: Treasure Coast
Contact: Capt. Paul Dritenbas
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The Treasure Coast Chapter of CCA continues to work with the Vero Beach Rotary Club on two projects on the Mooring Flats in the Indian River.  Paul Dritenbas, an architect, fishing guide, Rotarian and unwavering CCA volunteer, is leading an effort called Rotary Initiative for Submerged Seagrass Awareness (RISSA) that now surround the grass flats with a ring of buoys and warning signs to protect it from damage by powerboats.  
The first phase of the project consisted of placing Mooring Buoys around the designated area and the second phase will be to surround an existing oyster bar that currently has an area of approximately 400 square feet with approximately 1,200 16” x 16” black poly mesh mats.  Each mat will contain approximately 36 oysters predrilled and secured with black UV inhibited zip ties. The mats will be weighted down at the four corners with concrete irrigation head donuts and zip tied to each mat. The 1,200 mats will enlarge the oyster bar area to approximately 2,500 square feet (inclusive of the existing 400 square foot oyster bar).  The next oyster mat deployment is scheduled for Spring 2016.

Project: Brevard County Artificial Reef
Chapter: Orlando
Contact: Greg Harrison
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On August 7, 2015, twenty-four “Florida limestone” modules were deployed east of the popular 8A reef off the Brevard coast.  The modules are made of concrete and natural stone intended to attract marine growth as quickly as possible.  At 8 feet tall and with a 10-foot triangular base, each module boasts over 367 square feet of surface area.  The reef was deployed in a 4-by-6 grid with 20 feet between each module and weighed in at over 72 tons of material.

Thanks to CCA Orlando life member Greg Harrison working with Matt C. Culver, Boating & Waterways Program coordinator for the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department, the project was a huge success.   Unlike many permits that only cover a small area, the permit for this reef covers an area of nearly 4 square miles.  With the permitting already approved, adding to this reef should be more streamlined and less expensive in the future.  CCA Florida is currently working with Brevard County to supply concrete materials to the reef and we are currently looking for an adequate storage site for the concrete.  The concrete will be donated by Cemex thanks to CCA Florida Habitat Committee member Greg Bridge.  If any CCA members can help, the county needs a temporary storage site for the cement in Brevard County, preferably within one mile of the river.  Please contact Greg Harrison or Frank Gidus if you can assist!

Project: Mosquito Lagoon Oyster Reef/UCF Partnership
Chapter: Orlando
Contact: Greg Harrison
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Since 2008, CCA Orlando life member Greg Harrison CCA Florida has been partnering with the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Brevard Zoo on several oyster restoration and shoreline stabilization projects in the Mosquito Lagoon.  Greg was instrumental in getting many volunteers to assist over the years with what is quickly becoming Florida’s most publicized habitat project.   To date, the number of volunteers on this project total 44,563 for oyster restoration and 7,270 for living shorelines.   That’s an amazing total of 51,833 volunteers to date!

Led by Dr. Linda Walters, a UCF biological sciences professor, a total of 43,259 deployed oyster mats have restored a footprint area of 2.20 acres in the Mosquito Lagoon. The mats on the restored reefs are maintaining their structure and are not being dislodged by boat wakes.  Analysis of the monitoring data over the past eight years shows that, to date, this methodology that couples dead margin leveling with placement of oyster mats on the leveled shell material is exceeding all structural and functional monitoring plan objectives.  On restored reefs: 1) no dead margins have reformed, 2) recruitment of oysters on 2007 mats continues to increase and is now an average of 235.9 live oysters per mat (0.25 m2) or 943.6 live oysters per square meter, 3) recruitment continued to occur during 2 years with brown tide (Aureoumbra lagunensis) blooms, and 4) seagrass recruited seaward of 21 of 73 (28.8%) reefs restored between 2007 and 2015.  If you multiply the mean recruitment value for 2007 reefs by the number of mats deployed, this project has supplied substrate at the appropriate lagoon depths to potentially restore over 10,204,798 oysters to the waters of Mosquito Lagoon.  Overall, this project has been exceptionally successful in terms of oyster recruitment, habitat improvement, and community engagement.

Project: Jacksonville River Reef
Chapter: Jacksonville
Contact: Peyton Scheppe
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CCA Florida assisted with the splash down of two new fishing reefs less than half a mile from the I-95 Bridge over the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville in 2014.  The total cost of the project was $60,000 and the Jacksonville Chapter of CCA Florida raised 50 percent of the necessary funding. The Building Conservation Trust, CCA’s national habitat program, garnered support from country music star Kenny Chesney and Costa Sunglasses among others for donations for the remaining $30,000 to the project.  Named the Coastal Conservation Association and George Holt Reefs, the man-made reefs were designed to promote quality of aquatic life.  They were built through the support of Kenny Chesney’s ongoing partnership with Costa Del Mar Sunglasses and the CCA Building Conservation Trust.  An east Tennessee songwriter/superstar, Chesney visited the completed reefs in June 2015.  

Thirteen hundred tons of concrete were used to create the two reefs. In total, 18 barge loads were needed to carry the material to the two designated reef sites.  Each reef measures 200 feet by 200 feet, and each was built in a two-week time frame to minimize disruption.  The effort attracted widespread support including the City of Jacksonville, who embraced the idea and handled all the permitting requirements for the reefs.  Among the volunteers working for the habitat enhancement is the former chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Kathy Barco.  Jacksonville University is studying the reefs over the next two years to gauge the impact of the structures on the surrounding area.

Project: Florida Bay Seagrass Restoration Project
Chapter: North Palm
Contact: Bill Camp, Chairman, CCA Florida
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CCA Florida conducted and funded a seagrass restoration project in Florida Bay in 2009 and 2010.  The overall goal of the project was to help restore damaged seagrass beds.  Of the many different industry accepted techniques to complete seagrass restoration, a method known as “bird staking” was implemented.  “Bird staking” is accomplished by driving PVC stakes with wooden blocks on top into the damaged areas, birds then use the stakes as a perch and their excrement acts as a fertilizer stimulating the seagrasses to grow in the affected area.   There were 100 bird stakes and one restoration informational sign installed as part of this effort. The National Parks Service (NPS) was onsite during the installation of the stakes and approved the final construction of the project. The restoration took place on Upper Cross Bank in the Florida Bay within Everglades National Park along the southern boundary, just east and north of Tavernier Creek.

The project came about through the hard work and dedication of CCA Florida Board members Adam Gelber and Mike Kennedy.  A respected authority on the subject of seagrasses, Gelber worked long and hard to get the project off the ground. With the project being located within a National Park, CCA Florida was required to get permission through the NPS via the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which can be a lengthy and time consuming process due to consultation requirements for potential impacts to threatened and endangered species with the NPS’ sister federal agencies. Eventually, the persistence paid off and the resource won out.   CCA members from around the state converged on Florida Bay to help with the installation. Special thanks go to Diane Harbaugh for her unwavering support to coordinate volunteer assistance and finding an access point in the Keys. Special thanks also to CCA Florida Chairman Bill Bird and CCA Florida Vice Chairman Jeff Allen for their help with the installation of the bird stakes.
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