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Date of Issue: November 03, 2006

Dredge work under way in Cortez channel

Dredge work is under way to clear out the Cortez fishing channel, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage reported last week.

"Dredging has commenced," Allen Garner, FISH president, told the board during a meeting Oct. 26 in Cortez. "They're making progress. That's kind of exciting."

The work, coordinated by the West Coast Inland Navigation District and urged by FISH, began in early October.

"It's all good stuff," Garner said of the material being removed from the channel.

There had been concern there might be pollution stirred up by the project, explained FISH's Roger Allen.

"That channel very badly needed dredging," Allen said. "The thing that finally brought the whole project around is they tested the bottom and they found it is not polluted. It's clean. But that was the big concern. Everybody was concerned about that."

To assist with the dredge project, FISH allowed the operators to use about seven acres of the FISH Preserve for retention of the dredged materials.

"The material comes out as very, very wet - with a lot of sediment," Allen said. "It needs a place where it can settle out.... So they've cleared an area, burned it off, lined it with a membrane and pumped it into this retention area."

FISH also benefited from that arrangement - before the property could be used it had to be cleared of invasive, non-native Brazilian pepper and Australian pine trees.

"When they're done, they'll bring in a fresh layer of topsoil and ... we'll plant native species," Allen said. "It's a great project for us....

They spent a lot of money taking out the non-natives."

The board also discussed a grant request with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program to nurture the local scallop population and the continued interest in purchasing the Seafood Shack property for a maritime museum and educational center.

Allen attended a recent conference that involved discussions on legislation that might help fund the preservation of traditional "working waterfronts" and boost efforts like FISH's purchase of the Seafood Shack.

"People are out there doing astonishing preservation in the state," Allen told the board.

On the restoration front, Florida Sea Grant marine extension agent John Stevely told the board he submitted a request for $2,000 for a small-scale scallop enhancement project.

Stevely said the plan calls for spawning scallops in tanks and he has a local hatchery producer interested in the effort to restore the scallop population adjacent to the FISH Preserve.

"We'll find out about the proposal in January," he said. "I think it is unique ... and we really want to do something for the Village of Cortez."

In other FISH-related business on Oct. 26:

  • Allen reported that the 1890 Burton Store might be moved in the next several weeks. The historic building will be moved to the grounds of the 1912-built school that now houses the Florida Maritime Museum.
  • Garner reported that stone crab season has started and "I haven't heard any complaints."
  • Linda Molto said plans for the annual fishing festival, scheduled for next Feb. 17-18, were going well.
    "Everything is falling into place," she said, adding that organizers expect to see a number of returning artists.
  • Mary Fulford Green announced the Cortez Village Historical Society is producing a new "What's Cooking in Cortez" cookbook under a hard, padded cover. Green said recipes should be sent to P.O. Box 463, Cortez FL 34215.

The next FISH meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Cortez Community Center, 4523 123rd St. Ct. W.

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