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Bradenton legislator seeks money to lift oyster populations

Oysters helped formed the Manatee River, even though the shelled water creatures aren’t found there in large numbers today. But state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, hopes to see the populations replenished.

The state lawmaker filed an appropriations bill this week (HB 3829) seeking a $950,000 investment in a Manatee County program to place live clams and oyster shells in the Manatee River, Sarasota Bay and some Tampa Bay estuaries. The county will work with the University of Florida Sea Grant program, the Gulf Shellfish Institute, Sarasota Baywatch and Solutions To Avoid Red Tide on the project.

It’s not just about building up fauna. Robinson said increasing these wildlife populations will assist with a major priority of the state: water quality improvement. Robinson spent a weekend recently with business leader Ed Chiles discussing beach reclamation and learned about how shellfish aid in the ecosystem.

“This allows the water to be cleaned by nature,” he said. “I was just amazed by what ordinary clams could do. It’s just one small thing to do to clean the water.”

The effort won’t be funded entirely by the state. Manatee County’s Parks and Natural Resources Department will provide $100,000 for design and planning and $200,000 for finalizing plans and permitting, along with $320,000 in construction costs. Marine Serves will chip in $10,000. The county will work with the University of Florida Sea Grant program.