In 2021 the Indian River Lagoon’s manatee population suffered an unprecedented mortality event. In less than a year more than 1,100 manatees had perished from starvation. At that time, it was estimated that the Indian River Lagoon had lost around 58 percent of its seagrass, representing an ongoing environmental disaster that has been threatening the health of the estuary and every living thing it supports.
That same year the Manatee Observation & Education Center (MOEC), supported by Fort Pierce Utilities Authority (FPUA) since 1996, and the Treasure Coast Manatee Foundation (TCMF), mobilized and raised over $58,000 to restore one acre of seagrass in Moore’s Creek by the Manatee Center. They contracted Sea & Shoreline, LLC, the widely known seagrass restoration experts that successfully restored the similarly ailing Crystal River, back in 2014. They began work here in the Lagoon one acre at a time.
This pioneer project was so successful that in early 2022, MOEC submitted a proposal to the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRLNEP) and was awarded almost $40,000 toward additional seagrass restoration activities including restoration research next to the Fort Pierce Yacht Club.
Seagrass shoots planted in Moore's Creek & Fort Pierce Yacht Club
These first two seagrass restoration activities were broken up into two phases. Phase 1 included the installation of more than 5,000 seagrass shoots starting at MOEC, the mouth of Moore’s Creek, and continuing upstream. Phase 2 is located directly on the western coast of the IRL, adjacent to the Fort Pierce Yacht Club, and installed over 2,000 seagrass shoots. Throughout the project, MOEC volunteers donated more than 900 hours as Roving Naturalists, counting manatee sightings in Moore’s Creek and teaching passersby all about the seagrass restoration initiatives taking place in Downtown Fort Pierce.
The results of this project are estimated to remove as much as 220 pounds of Nitrogen per planted acre over a five-year growth period, and an additional 42 pounds per year in the following years. To date, seagrass coverage has expanded from less than 5% coverage to roughly 85% coverage in several project areas.
Sea & Shoreline workers
Sea & Shoreline worker & MOEC volunteer
FPUA was also awarded $15 million dollars in early 2023 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Resilient Florida toward the long-awaited project to relocate its sewer treatment plant. This critical project removes the existing island sewer treatment plant from the shores of the Indian River Lagoon, and places the new treatment plant five miles west, far away from the lagoon and in an industrial area away from neighborhoods, shielding the lagoon from any potential catastrophe from the aging infrastructure.
Water Reclamation Facility
FPUA will also continue to include seagrass restoration activities in grant proposals related to relocating the Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) off the IRL. This year, FPUA submitted an additional proposal to the Resilient Florida Program, which included the installation of an additional 2.47 acres of seagrass near the current WRF site. If awarded, FPUA will have installed a combined total of 6.2 acres of seagrass since 2022.
Water Reclamation Facility
At FPUA, our aspiration is to be the premier company in our industry, providing customer-focused energy solutions, investment-driven growth opportunities, and sustainable value for our customers and employees. Underpinning this effort is our unwavering commitment to top-tier safety and reliability, collaborative customer relationships, inclusive and engaging work environments, strong governance and transparency, and forward-looking environmental practices and stewardship.
Our team continues to make meaningful progress toward that vision via a balanced, forward-looking strategy that includes long-term modernization of our assets, improvements in customer programs and services, and strong community involvement.
Our Sustainability Strategy defines key organization-wide initiatives in the areas of:
Strong, Growing Communities
Customer-Focused Energy Solutions
Safe, Skilled and Engaged Teams
Governance and Transparency
We believe that our ability to execute on the FPUA strategy – combined with strong engagement and communication with you, our customers – will enable us to establish a legacy of sustained environmental stewardship, economic growth and social responsibility truly reflective of a premier utility company. Learn more at https://fpua.com/sustainability