A new role for Samsons Island

City-owned Samsons Island in Satellite Beach may hold the keys to natural ways to repair the ailing Indian River Lagoon.

Created as a spoil island, the wild, rustic camping and recreation area has the potential to serve as an example of viable man-made ecosystems like mangrove shorelines by becoming the test location for a “habitat mosaic” of options for growing oysters, clams and seagrass.

If a grant application is approved by the National Estuary Program, an acre of shoreline on Samsons Island’s southwest corner – part of a 35-acre former seagrass flat completely wiped out by a 2011 algae super bloom – will become the Samsons Island Submerged Lands Restoration Pilot Project (SISLR).

The test site created by the $135,000, three-year project will be used by an array of scientists and agencies to monitor and evaluate different methods to grow clams, oysters and seagrass as a way to find which works best.

If successful, there is the chance for expansion to other areas, possibly including a larger portion of the grass flat, said Nick Sanzone, Satellite Beach Environmental Programs Coordinator.

“Repairing the natural habitats will demonstrate the role of aquatic ecosystems, reduce the impact of nonpoint source pollution on the Indian River Lagoon, and produce biodiversity,” he wrote in a summary as part of the NEP application. “We cannot replant all the lost seagrass, but we can jump-start the natural recruitment and recovery process.”

A growing list of community partners have signed on for the project, including Florida Atlantic University (FAU, Harbor Branch), which will help with seagrass nursery technology; the University of Florida, which is working to raise clams native to the Indian River Lagoon with support and participation also from Florida Institute of Technology for water quality sampling; the Marine Resources Council; the Marine Discovery Center; and the Florida Oceanographic Society.

The NEP grant application, for which no cash will be required from Satellite Beach in lieu of in-kind services for the project, is expected to be announced within about three months, Sanzone said.

The project is scheduled to begin in 2020.

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