Tarpon Cove is Palm Beach County’s newest habitat creation project in Lake Worth Lagoon (LWL), the county’s largest estuary. Tarpon Cove began as just an idea back in 2017 and has since blossomed into not only incredible new habitat, but a shining example of what can be done with broad partnerships between municipalities, local governments, state agencies, the federal government, businesses and the community. Thus far, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Department of Environmental Protection have helped the county secure $3.8 million in state and federal funding for the project, and the Rybovich Superyacht Marina, Town of Palm Beach and The Florida Inland Navigation District have collectively donated $11 million worth of clean sand for the restoration work.
The Tarpon Cove restoration project will ultimately create over 45 acres of habitat that will include five mangrove islands in addition to seagrass and oyster reef, providing long term wildlife and water quality benefits within LWL. The construction process builds marine habitat by filling existing dredge holes (biological “dead zones”), raising the lagoon floor elevation to create a shallow, sun-drenched bottom surface for seagrass recruitment. The newly created islands encourage the recruitment of oysters and mangroves, both critical species that improve water quality and overall health benefits for the LWL ecosystem. In addition to the formation of valuable marine habitat, the finished project offers a natural shoreline barrier or breakwater along an extensive concrete sea walled section of the lagoon, helping to protect critical infrastructure.
Construction has been completed on two of the five islands, with construction of two more islands slated to begin in June of this year receiving sand from the Town of Palm Beach Dock expansion. On March 5th, once construction of the first two islands was complete, the sandy shores of Tarpon Cove became green with the help of nearly 100 volunteers from the El Cid community, the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, Lagoon Keepers, Palm Beach Day Academy, Conservation Conservatory School, MANG Gear, Lake Worth Waterkeepers, and FWC who planted 2,500 mangroves and 4,000 cordgrass plants. A second volunteer planting event will be scheduled for later this year. The cherry on top of this success story is that for a second year in a row, American oystercatchers (an incredible bird that has become the face of LWL restoration) have begun nesting on the newly created islands.