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Human Interaction

 

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Lake Worth Lagoon, ca. 1980s.

Lagoons are popular places for many kinds of boating. They provide direct access to the ocean for commercial and recreational vessels, and shelter from ocean waves, winds, and storms, especially for kayaks and small boats. Collisions with watercraft, however, are the largest cause of injury and death for the endangered manatee. Low-speed manatee zones are now designated in areas where manatees are known to congregate. Still, almost all manatees seen in Florida have scars from being hit by watercraft.

 

Estuaries are among the most endangered of our natural ecosystems, and any change in nearby water can be destructive. For many years, acres of productive tidal marsh were converted to residential, industrial, or agricultural use. Rain mixes with pollutants from agricultural and urban areas, including fertilizers, harmful chemicals, dangerous heavy metals, and even household chemicals. Much of this runoff flows into rivers and canals and eventually into coastal estuaries, such as the Lake Worth Lagoon. Since pollutants are not natural to estuaries, they can cause fish kills and other environmental damage that may not be visible immediately. Some areas have been painstakingly restored to health after serious damage.

 

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Aerial looking north with Munyon Island below.

Munyon Island is an example of how damaged environments can be restored. The county restored 20 acres between 1992 and 1997, removing exotic plants, grading down to wetland elevations, excavating tidal channels and ponds, and planting native vegetation. The dredged material was moved to a nearby dredged hole, enhancing nine acres of submerged lands. Restoration also included 23 acres of upland: exotic plant removal, chipping, and re-vegetation with native plants to restore the original maritime hammock. Contributors to the project were Palm Beach County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Inland Navigation District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida State Historic Preservation Office, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, and Florida Atlantic University. By 1997 Munyon Island was once more a functional estuarine community.

 

A similar partnership created a success story for Peanut Island. Palm Beach County opened Peanut Island Park around the island's perimeter in 1999 and continued to add amenities. But in 2003 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported both good and bad news: The Lake Worth Lagoon was still host to a great variety of plants and animals, and over 260 species of fish had been identified around the inlets. But the county had also lost over 85 percent of its estuary resources. In response, a joint effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Palm Beach County, and the Florida Inland Navigation District completed the Peanut Island Environmental Restoration in 2007, and has similar projects planned or underway.

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