With more than $16 million invested in environmental projects since 2000, Port Manatee and its partners are dedicated to protecting the natural environment in and around the port’s rural setting. The Manatee County port Authority is committed to enhancing Tampa Bay’s pristine ecosystem.
Additionally Port Manatee is dedicated to reducing its environmental footprint. In 2014 two “green” diesel-electric locomotives were deployed bringing along dramatic reductions in emissions and operating costs.
Drawing from a donor bed of 5.33 acres lying in the path of proposed expansion dredging, 25 acres of new seagrass meadows now flourish in Tampa Bay waters adjacent to Port Manatee. Beginning in 2001, scientists carefully transplanted the seagrass to locations scarred by years of propeller driven recreational boats traversing shallow bay waters. With a 400-acre environmental management area in place to protect the habitat from further scarring, seagrass now grows unimpeded.
For the previous 30 years, seagrass transplantation was largely considered experimental, meeting with varying degrees of success around the world. The project’s size and overwhelming success attracted global attention and earned several honors, including the 2006 Gulf Guardian Award from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program. The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) also selected the project as the Western Hemisphere’s top environmental program in 2006.
The seagrass program award marked the second time in three years a Port Manatee environmental mitigation program was honored by the AAPA.
Manbirtee Key Bird Sanctuary
The man-made island, known as Manbirtee Key, is the result of Port Manatee’s original dredging project in the 1960s. The port partnered with Gulfstream Natural Gas System and Audubon of Florida in a multi-million dollar project converting the spoil island to a thriving bird sanctuary. Manbirtee Key has attracted more than 120 species of birds since its restoration in 2003 and the number of nesting species are on the rise.
The island was constructed to suit a wide range of nesting and feeding habitats. Invasive plant species, overgrown vegetation and predators (such as raccoons, possums and snakes) were removed from the island.
Due to the low disturbance level and distance to predators from the mainland, even threatened species are making a comeback to the island
The bird sanctuary and the new seagrass meadows flourish with plant and animal life, demonstrating that ports and nature not only can coexist, but can thrive.
The name Manbirtee Key comes from the winning entry in a local “Name the Island” contest for elementary school children. The name is a combination of the words man, bird and manatee.
In March 2014 Port Manatee’s Senior Director of Planning, Engineering and Environmental Affairs, George Isiminger offered the MCPA board members a tour of Manbirtee Key. The Bradenton Herald accompanied the tour and put together the following short video: