From the Miami Herald:
Federal stimulus money is paying for more than roads and bridges during this economic downturn. Ecological projects are part of the mix — and that bodes well for Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received $167 million in February from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Florida will get a fair share of that money.
The scope of the projects is reminiscent of work the Conservation Corps completed to stimulate the economy by creating jobs during the Great Depression. Those ”make-work” projects had lasting value. Go to our national parks to witness the results of the Conservation Corps’ work. They are a reminder of how integral our natural resources are to our economy and our social fabric. They’re also an example of how something good can come out of hard times. So it should be with today’s stimulus dollars.
Coral reefs along the state’s southern coast and the U.S. Virgin Islands will get $3.3 million to expand four existing nurseries of staghorn and elkhorn coral and establish two new coral nurseries. In the next three years some 12,000 corals will be grown to expand reef populations in degraded areas from the Dry Tortugas to waters off Broward County. The stimulus money will pay for 57 jobs needed for the work. The nonprofit Nature Conservancy will oversee the projects. Staghorn and elkhorn reefs in the Keys can offer stunning views for divers and snorkelers — and serve as sheltering nurseries for food. But they have suffered coral bleaching as the ocean warms up. Coral diseases, hurricane damage and ship groundings also take their toll. So the two corals have been designated national threatened species. When growing conditions are optimal, however, the two species grow relatively quickly, four or more inches a year.
Florida got three other stimulus-funded NOAA projects. The Indian River Lagoon’s oyster beds will be restored with $4 million. This will contribute to the overall Everglades restoration plan. The Northeastern Florida Wetlands Restoration project will get $2.7 million to remove dredged soil to restore 1,000 acres of tidal wetlands and coastal marsh around Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral. The Lost River Preserve will use $750,000 to restore 43 acres of fishing habitat near Tampa Bay. Using stimulus dollars to conserve resources that generate millions of tourist dollars also contributes to our food and water supplies and generates jobs. It’s a sound investment for Florida’s future.