Early in 2016, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) opened a 16,000-square-foot manatee viewing and education facility called Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery CenterTM. Located on five waterfront acres, the center and its grounds face the beautiful Lake Worth Lagoon and the island of Palm Beach. On the north side, the building and its observation decks overlook the warm water outflow area from FPL’s neighboring Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center. This special area attracts hundreds of manatees during the winter months. Juvenile manatees learn the migratory route from their mothers and return to their favorite warm water sites every year.
Since its grand opening, Manatee Lagoon has drawn tens of thousands of visitors and the Center’s team has introduced a robust calendar of educational programming, all of which is offered at no cost. The Center’s efforts just recently earned it a Conservation Certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council – recognizing Manatee Lagoon’s efforts in conservation education and community outreach.
"Manatee Lagoon provides learning opportunities for visitors and residents alike to better understand and protect manatees and the ecosystems they inhabit," said Pamela Rauch, vice president, external affairs and economic development for FPL. "We at FPL have an important role to play in educating audiences about how our power plants benefit this endangered animal and Florida's constantly evolving ecological landscape."
Last spring, Manatee Lagoon-certified divers completed a clean sweep of parts of the Lake Worth Lagoon estuary, removing boating debris, garbage, fishing line and other objects that potentially could be harmful to manatees or other marine life. Inside the Center, a brand new 200-gallon salt water tank replicates the environment of the mangrove shoreline and the reefs offshore. Guides, called “Manatee Masters,” use the tank to teach the public about the area’s natural ecosystem.
Manatee Masters at Manatee Lagoon include undergraduate and graduate level Florida Atlantic University environmental studies students. These docents teach all visitors about manatees and other aquatic wildlife that call the Lake Worth Lagoon home via daily talks and tours, classes and special events. They also record data, such as water temperature, wind patterns and tide times, and work closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to rescue injured manatees throughout the year.
Aside from being a great experience, Manatee Lagoon is a unique way for an energy company to educate its customers about industry developments as well as showcase how plant operations are able to co-exist with the environment. FPL has taken great steps to engage in stakeholder outreach so that the community is fully connected. For more information, please visit Manatee Lagoon’s website.
An original version of this story appeared on FPL’s Newsroom.