Posted by: reefrescue | May 13, 2010

Feds make plans to protect southeast Florida from Gulf oil spill

Gulf Stream Reef indentified as a resource in need of urgent protection

The Coast Guard has prepared a detailed atlas of southeast Florida that ranks coastal sites in order of priority, with a triple-diamond symbol marking the sites in most urgent need of protection.

Off southern Palm Beach and northern Broward counties, for example, triple diamonds mark the location of the Gulfstream Reef, a stand of mangroves in Boca Raton and residential canals in Deerfield Beach frequented by manatees. Off southern Broward, high priority spots include reefs inhabited by threatened staghorn and elkhorn (Acropora) corals, the seagrasses and manatee habitat around the Dania Cut-Off Canal and the yacht marinas around the 17th Street Causeway.

Key points for protection are the inlets, such as Hillsboro Inlet and Boca Raton Inlet, where tides could allow oil to penetrate coastal and interior wetlands. If oil arrives in South Florida in any quantity, officials said booms likely would block off the inlets.

Eric Myers, deputy director of the Broward County Department of Environmental Protection and Growth Management, said it is important to prevent oil from penetrating the inlets because it would be extremely difficult to remove from mangroves and other coastal vegetation.

Beaches — in spite of the nightmare image of oil spattered along sandy shore — would be a lower priority because they are comparatively easy to clean by removing contaminated sand. “Beaches can be cleaned up,” Myers said. “Plants, marshes, estuaries and mangroves are more difficult.”

In the Gulf of Mexico, planes and boats have sprayed about 372,000 gallons of chemicals into the slick to break it up. The use of these chemicals could be out of the question in South Florida, home of the largest coral reef tracts in the United States.

Richard Dodge, director of the National Coral Reef Institute of Nova Southeastern University, has told the Coast Guard and other authorities that dispersal chemicals could cause severe harm. The chemicals may be toxic to corals, and more important, by breaking up the oil and distributing it through the water, they would make it more likely that bits of oil would be absorbed by corals.

Read SunSentinel article,0,6380115,full.story


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