Public-private sectors become allies in restoration of coastal creek bordering Tampa Bay
TAMPA, March 16, 2007
In fast-growing Southern Hillsborough County, a groundbreaking public-private partnership is setting the stage for the restoration and permanent protection of critical coastal fisheries habitat. About 12 acres of wetlands and rare saltern habitat will be re-created or revived near Apollo Beach on property owned by Tampa Electric.
The Newman Branch Creek Fisheries Habitat Restoration project is the result of a unique partnership between the utility and the Southwest Florida Water Management District Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) program. It is the first time the District has worked with a private landowner to conduct habitat restoration. The project reflects the scarcity of coastland available for restoration and a growing interest in public-private collaboration to save valuable fish habitat.
Tampa Electric has agreed to place the parcel, which borders its Manatee Viewing Center, under a conservation easement to protect the fishery habitat.
Newman Branch Creek was once a meandering stream flanked by lush mangrove forest and salt marsh before it was ditched and channeled over 60 years ago to prevent flooding. Invasive plants moved in, tidal flows were interrupted and vital fisheries habitat was lost. Part of the property became a fish farm with 24 ponds that were cut off from the creek.
Construction begins next week to restore freshwater and brackish wetlands at Newman Branch and re-establish the creek’s natural contours. After the land has been graded, volunteers from local environmental organizations and neighboring schools will lend a hand in re-planting the parcel with native marsh grass and upland plants.
The Newman Branch Creek project was proposed by PEER, a non-profit collaborative of biologists specializing in habitat restoration and management, which also secured funding for the restoration from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Pinellas County Environmental Fund (PCEF) through grants totaling almost $200,000.
Tampa Electric Company is the principal subsidiary of TECO Energy, Inc. (NYSE: TE), an integrated energy-related holding company with core businesses in the utility sector, complemented by a family of unregulated businesses. Tampa Electric Company is a regulated utility with both electric and gas divisions (Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System). Other subsidiaries are engaged in waterborne transportation, coal and synthetic fuel production and independent power.