Florida, Power & Light executives broke ground on a manatee education center December 11, 2014. FP&L is the third largest electric utility company in the United States, with 4.7 million customers in Florida. The learning center will raise awareness about the marine mammal species for years to come.
Manatees have been migrating back to the Lake Worth Lagoon and other areas in South Florida seeking warm water refuge for many years. The manatee needs warmth when the surrounding water temperature drops below 68 degrees. FP&L has supported manatee research for decades. The electric company has sponsored tagging, monitoring and aerial surveys with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in assessing manatee herds.
The gentle herbivore follows a migratory pattern, similar to sea turtles, which lead them back to sea grass beds and warm water such as FP&L Riviera Beach Outflow Center. Byproducts of coastal power plants are the warm water outflows, which are essential to combat the effects of harmful impacts of cold stress.
The adult manatee weighs around 1,000 pounds and is about 10 feet long. Manatees reach sexual maturity at 4–7 years, and the female reproductive rate is an average of one birth every two to three years. Calves remain with their mothers for up to 2 1/2 years. At birth, calves weigh about 60-80 pounds. Like all mammals, it has hair on its body, nurses its young, and is warm-blooded. Manatees can live to be about 50 to 60 years old.
The gentle manatee has no natural predators or enemies. A small percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes such as cold, stress, and disease. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft. At last count in January 2014, the minimum population of the endangered species is 4,831.
"The construction of this manatee center is a positive step in recognizing how important it is to constantly improve on and support our area's educational, cultural and visitor amenities, one valued community asset at a time," said Judy Davis, Riviera Beach City Council chair. FPL's center will be the only facility of its kind throughout its 35-county service territory. The education center will highlight manatees and other species that inhabit the Lake Worth Lagoon.
Admission will be FREE. Grand opening is planned during the winter of 2015/2016. The two-story, 16,000-sq.-ft. center will feature a manatee viewing area, exhibit space, interactive displays, a pavilion, picnic areas, a gift shop, classrooms and free parking.
For more information on FP&L’S manatee education center, visit www.FPL.com/Riviera.