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Siesta Key residents look for solutions for Grand Canal water quality

Siesta Key Association members would like to place mini-reefs under docks in the Grand Canal to help filter the water.

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  • | 3:07 p.m. December 10, 2019
Residents along the Grand Canal hope to place mini-reefs below their docks.
Residents along the Grand Canal hope to place mini-reefs below their docks.
  • Siesta Key
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Fish kills and sewage spills have plagued Grand Canal in 2019, causing murky water and a reduced amount of marine life, but some Siesta Key residents hope to change that.

Phil Chicocchio, a member of Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum, gave a presentation at a Siesta Key Association meeting Dec. 5 on possible solutions. Among them was the dredging of the canal’s opening at Roberts Bay  to improve tidal flushing, though the most popular solution was the addition of small floating mini-reefs installed under docks.

Because there is only one entrance to the canal, which is restricted by shoals, there is not much water flow in the canal, which causes a lack of oxygen.

David Wolff prepares to submerge 10 mini-reefs at MarVista on Longboat Key.
David Wolff prepares to submerge 10 mini-reefs at MarVista on Longboat Key.

The mini-reefs, Chicocchio said, would help solve that problem. The reefs are 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall, with four shelves to attract sea life.

When the shelves are full of clams and other sea life — a process that takes about three months — they can filter about  30,000 gallons of water every day, said Sandy Gilbert, the CEO of Solutions to Avoid Red Tide.

“What you’re in essence doing is creating a hotel for sea life,” Gilbert said. “You’re creating a place to hide, a place to get light and a place for food for the fish that visit. And you’re raising young things.”

Gilbert, who has promoted the reefs throughout the state and at Longboat Key’s MarVista Dockside restaurant, said the reefs are built with polypropylene, which is sturdy and won’t disintegrate. There are about 3,000 of the reefs around the state.

“None of them have ever collapsed,” Gilbert said. “None of them except one has ever been knocked down because of a hurricane and the only reason that one broke was because the dock collapsed.”

The mini-reefs cost $250 each, with a $50 installation fee.

“For the same cost as going down to Best Buy and getting an LED TV, we could get these and stick them in the canal,” Chicocchio said. “We, as citizens, need to do something.”

When asked who would be willing to buy and have a mini-reef installed, nearly every person in the approximate 50-member audience raised their hands.

However, Sarasota County code doesn’t currently allow for such structures.

They are, however, allowed in the city of Sarasota. 

Amy Ferrell, a resident of the Bay Isles neighborhood, said she would be interested to test the reefs in   her neighborhood.

“I think these would be absolutely wonderful,” Ferrell said. “We’ve got plenty of fish and dolphins and manatee that come into our bayou, and I think we’d be a logical place to get started and help with this mini-reef issue.”


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