Restoration efforts continue at Tampa Bay's largest wetland renewal site
One hundred volunteers recently gathered at Tampa Bay's largest wetland restoration site to plant native salt marsh to restore critical marine habitats and filter pollutants, with support from CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Tampa Bay Watch and SW Florida Water Management District.
TAMPA BAY, FL, June 9, 2015 -- On Saturday, May 16, approximately 100 volunteers gathered at Tampa Bay's largest wetland restoration site to plant native salt marsh in an effort to restore critical marine habitats and filter pollutants, thanks to support from CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Tampa Bay Watch and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (WMD). School children and community allies planted Spartina alterniflora, commonly known as salt marsh cordgrass, along the Rock Ponds shoreline just north of Port Manatee.
Formerly agriculture fields and shell mining pits, the Rock Ponds are dominated by non-native plant species and plagued by pollution from urban and agricultural runoff. By planting native salt marsh, volunteers took a vital step toward cleaning up the ponds and creating critical coastal wetland habitats that will improve water quality and restore essential fish and wildlife to the area.
Salt marsh and other coastal habitat populations have declined more than 80 percent over the past 100 years due mostly to dredging, construction and wastewater discharges. This loss has damaged a crucial link in Tampa Bay's food chain for fish and wildlife resources, significantly impacting the bay's fisheries. Saturday's coastal restoration project sought to counteract this by stabilizing coastal land in order to feed and protect fish and other marine life.
Tampa Bay Watch's partnership with CITGO for Rock Ponds restoration efforts is part of the company's Caring for Our Coast initiative to support environmental stewardship and sustainability. Caring for Our Coast includes programs designed to extend the commitment CITGO has made to environmental protection and restoration leading into the 10th anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September of this year.
As a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a significant portion of beaches, dunes and wetlands surrounding the Gulf of Mexico were damaged by erosion -- areas where CITGO employees and refineries are largely based. CITGO has played an integral role in the Gulf Coast community for more than 80 years. After the storms, CITGO provided funding and fuel to non-governmental organizations and first responders and assisted in evacuating citizens out of harm's way. The operations at the CITGO Lake Charles refinery were brought back online in record time so that fuel and other desperately-needed products could be provided to the region.