Protecting the Gulf
Healthy Seagrass Beds
Seagrasses are foundational building blocks of marine and estuarine ecosystems. Florida has an estimated 2.2 million acres of seagrasses including extensive beds in shallow Gulf waters off the Taylor County coast. Scientists have found the submerged, grass-like plants provide many significant environmental functions such as stabilizing underwater bottoms with their roots and rhizomes, providing shelter for fish, crustaceans and shellfish, and growing food for marine animals.
Foley Cellulose is working with federal and state experts and private researchers to reduce the impact that color in the company’s treated effluent has on nearshore Gulf seagrasses at the mouth of the Fenholloway River. Additional improvements at the manufacturing mill will further reduce color in the treated effluent allowing seagrasses to return to their natural range near the Fenholloway.
Restoration at a Glance
Timelapse of Seagrass Growth at the Mouth of the River
Since the 1970s Foley Cellulose has worked with independent researchers to gather and analyze water quality and seagrass growth data from near-shore Gulf waters at the mouths of the Fenholloway and Econfina rivers.
Time-variable computer models utilizing field data have helped scientists to map seagrass growth and better understand the complex relationships affecting seagrasses. Storm patterns, natural freshwater color from rainfall runoff, groundwater, tidal flows and Foley Cellulose treated effluent all combine to become the ecology at the mouth of the Fenholloway.
One major finding: for seagrasses to grow in their natural range near the Fenholloway there must routinely be 20 percent sunlight reaching the bottom where seagrasses grow. This requires reducing color in Foley Cellulose’s treated effluent 61 percent from historical levels.
This finding has been used by environmental regulators to develop more stringent effluent color limits, and by Foley Cellulose engineers to design and install improved processes and effluent treatment systems within the Foley Cellulose mill. By March 6, 2019, we must make improvements in effluent quality and by March 6, 2021, relocate the point of discharge to river mile 1.5.