PRESENTED BY GICIA – Construction at GICIA’s Mercabo Cove site is nearing completion. TSI Disaster Recovery, the company hired to carry out the plans for the Cove, is beginning to complete the final construction elements. Construction began on March 2nd and is expected to be completed by Halloween. The Cove project is designed to transform the Mercabo Preserve basin area into a marine sanctuary that will provide long-term benefits that include improved water quality, better habitat for fish and birds, reduced dam maintenance costs and views. visually improved of the reserve site. As of now, reefballs, rip raps and reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) have been installed along the tip of the dam around the site. All these elements are in concrete and are used to reinforce the dam, improving the fish habitat within the Bay.
RCPs that have been placed vertically in front of the dam will be used as planters for the mangroves. As mangroves grow, their root systems will extend over the tops of the RCPs, eventually hiding the concrete capsules. Once the mangroves have once established, they will also provide shade for the fish and perching and / or nesting areas for the birds. The living shoreline section of the project was also completed, with the exception of the final planting.
Easily visible as you drive to and from the island along the causeway, the east side of the Bay entrance has a section where the dam has been completely removed. The remaining shoreline in that area has been stabilized with grassy wetland plants and, as it passes into deeper water, reefballs have been installed. This shallow tidal zone will create much needed habitat for small fish and the visual impact will be significant.
The tide pool was an addition to the cove made after speaking with Dr. James Locascio of the Mote Marine Laboratory. The pond was created in the easternmost section of the canal and was built to mimic the tide pools found along the southwestern coast of Florida and often used by locally important sporting fish such as juvenile tarpon and snook. The Bay’s tidal pond is teardrop-shaped and will be finished with a fringe of mangroves planted around the banks of the pond. Once the mangroves mature, they will provide a shaded, shallow and safe area accessible only to small fish.
The washing channel and bridge, located at the eastern end of the dead end channel, are two of the most significant features of the restoration. The wash channel was dug deep enough to allow for tidal movement and significant water exchange between the bay and the previously “dead end” section of the channel. By encouraging tidal swap in a section of the canal that has not seen water movement since the site was developed by Mercury years ago, the water quality throughout the Cove system will be greatly improved. A rustic wooden bridge was also built to allow access to the peninsula portion of the Mercabo Preserve site.
Finally, planting of the Mercabo Cove project will begin in the next two weeks. The mountain plantations will include nearly 600 mangroves and many other native herbs, trees and shrubs. Taking only a few weeks to complete, the installation of the native mountain plants will make a noticeable difference in the aesthetics of the Mercabo site. Finally, the entire basin was shaped (using local dredging material) to a maximum depth of four feet to ensure the appropriate depth for seagrass planting. GICIA is thrilled to work with Sea and Shoreline to plant nearly 3,600 units of seagrass once the water in the newly restored bay has stabilized. Seagrasses are sensitive to water quality and are a great indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem, which is why GICIA is so excited about planting seagrasses. Simply put, successful algae growth will be a guarantee that the entire Bay restoration was a success.
After planting, Sea and Shoreline will perform monthly maintenance and monitoring events to quantify the survival, growth and effectiveness of the seagrass project.
As many people know, the Mercabo site was once the home of the Mercury Test Center. When the GICIA originally purchased the 30 acres, it housed nine buildings including dry boat storage, a convention center, an office, a small hotel, and a room for 185 wet seats. GICIA’s initial vision for this site was to fully restore the highlands to create a visually appealing native bird and wildlife sanctuary that would be protected from development forever. Once the restoration of the plateau was completed, the GICIA began exploring the possibility of creating an aquatic sanctuary, and the restoration project of the Mercabo bay was born. This groundbreaking project is estimated to cost $ 2 million and the GICIA is extremely pleased that the Boca Grande community has continued to support the restoration of the Mercabo Preserve site. This unique project will provide an improved habitat for juvenile snook and tarpon, the endangered small-toothed sawfish, dolphins, and manatee. If you would like more information on this exciting project, please contact the GICIA office at 964-2667.