Siesta Key Grand Canal Regeneration (SK GCR) Project


The map below is of the north end of the Island with a view of the Siesta Key Grand Canal. This canal system is 89 acres and nine-miles long – it is a mile longer than Phillippi Creek. It is an enclosed waterway with only one entrance/exit. There are issues with shoal build-ups at the mouth and the Midnight Pass Bridge. The circle on the map identifies this area. The Grand Canal has many areas with low water flow, and there is limited flushing of the canal waters. Stormwater runoffs are typically directed from the streets into the canal and other Island waterways.

Here is a PodCast link describing the project and its purpose in more detail

Map of the north end of Siesta Key, outlining the Grand Canal

The Siesta Key Grand Canal Regeneration (SK GCR) Project aims to regenerate Siesta Key waterways and use science in the Grand Canal, the heart of Siesta Key, to understand the effects of our efforts. By increasing habitats, we aim to create a juvenile fish nursery and sea life habitats one section at a time throughout our Island. Bottom line, we are adding new marine life real estate and hope to increase sea life and diversity while cleaning our waterways.

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Our work and what we are doing

This balanced ecological environment will need more than just mini reefs as we move forward. The Mini Reef, pictured below, is estimated to last for 75 years. A mini reef will support 300 fish and 200 crabs per year and act as Nature’s kidneys filtering 30,000 gallons of water per day.

Habitat colonization improves water quality by trapping sediment and providing dissolved oxygen. The changes in time will include reduced turbidity and improving clarity to enhance addition colonization while adding filtration for nutrients creating a nursery environment for juvenile sea life.

The Mini Reef description (How the Mini Reef Works) outlines mini reef features and shows the initial appearance before entering the water. It also shows what it looks like in the water after nine (9) weeks. Mini Reef size is 3’x2’x2′. Mini Reefs float and are tied to four dock poles with standard mooring lines, with rollers for a smooth ride with the tide up and down. There is a smaller version with one less shelf for areas when water is less than 24″ deep. The cost is $325, and this includes installation.

We have also used grant money to test adding oxygen (dissolved oxygen) around our installed mini reefs to increase colonization and diversity. We were able to work with one company to bring in nanobubbles that help improve by adding the oxygen at the bottom of the water. Unfortunately, the nanobubbles were not as effective as the tides in our canals are low. We hope to test this company’s newer model later in 2022 or 2023.

Project Highlights

Click here for a few pictures of our install crew, David and David Jr, from Ocean Habitats, the SKA team, and the happy dock owners.

This project started as a Pilot on November 5, 2020, with 24 mini reefs. The team also began the science side of the project in the fall of 2021. The science focus is on the Grand Canal. The team uses citizen scientists who volunteer and are trained today through the Center of Anna Maria Islands project team from Eckerd College. We are waiting on the arrival of updated digital tools in April 2022 to support our water testing process. The digital tools will help with consistency and accuracy.

As of April 1, 2022, we have 201 mini reefs installed in the SK Grand Canal, and outside of the canal in the other waterways, there are another 42 mini reefs for 243 mini reefs installed on the Island.

We are currently working on two grants: Sarasota Count NIGP (Neighborhood Initiative Grant Program) and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). For the Sarasota County NIGP project, we concentrated 30 mini reefs in two dead-end canals with stormwater drains to jump-start building a juvenile sea life population at the mouth of the canal. The SBEP grant aims to introduce dissolved oxygen to the water in a lower, south end of the canal area that is also a dead-end canal with low water flow.

We solicit donations to our non-profit SKEDF (Siesta Key Association’s Environmental Defense Fund) to support our work and pay for project expenses and administration fees.

For more detailed information, contact