Around the State- Southwest/ Tampa Bay- June 2002
A foreign mussel has taken hold in Tampa Bay, threatening native species and clogging intake pipes.
By Amy Welch
In late 1999, Tampa Electric Co. sent divers into Tampa Bay to find out what was blocking saltwater from reaching its plant through underwater pipes. They discovered that thousands of emerald green mussels, not native to the area, had clogged the pipes, causing generators to shut down.
Researchers identified the mollusks as Asian green mussels, native to the Pacific and Indian oceans and a delicacy in Asia. Scientists suspect that thousands of mussel larvae arrived in the holds of cargo ships, the way many non-indigenous water species come here. Most such creatures don't survive long, but "the green mussel is here to stay," says Nancy Smith, a marine biologist at Eckerd College.
As many as 10,000 mussels per square meter have been found on bridge pilings, buoys, piers and pipes and have spread as far south as Charlotte Harbor, taking over native clam and oyster habitats. Researchers are concerned over declines in the oyster population because, unlike mussels, "oysters create natural reefs with their shells, which attract and produce fish," says Patrick Baker, a University of Florida fisheries and aquatic sciences researcher.
Baker fears the mussels will spread to the Gulf of Mexico, hurting the fishing industry and creating "a major ecological impact" by smothering other bivalves and disrupting the natural food chain, which is what he suspects is happening in Tampa Bay.
Eradicating the mussels is next to impossible because they reproduce so prolifically. Harvesting the mussels might be an option, but they are reproducing in many areas closed to harvesting because of pollution.
After scraping the mussels off, TECO began coating its intake pipes with copper to make it harder for the mussels to attach. But the mussels struck back, producing their own "matting" to attach to the pipes. Although the company doesn't know how much it has spent to clean out the mussels, executives say they send divers down once a month to scrape the pipes.
Without a good solution for conquering the mussels, Baker and Smith suggest at least trying to curb the spreading. Boaters, they say, should wash their boats thoroughly before setting them down in other bodies of water. "It could be that the mussels can't move on their own," Baker says. "We can help reduce the negative impacts they cause."
In the News
Clearwater -- MarineMax (NYSE-HZO), one of the country's largest recreational boat retailers, paid $16 million for Gulfwind Marine Partners of Sarasota, which sells Sea Ray and Boston Whaler brands. The deal is MarineMax's biggest acquisition since going public in 1998.
Tech Data (Nasdaq-TECD) has suspended matching contributions to its 401(k) retirement plan. The change will save the hardware and software computer distributor about $3 million a year. CEO Steve Raymund says the measure was taken to avoid layoffs. Weeks later, however, the company announced it was cutting 30 positions.
L-3 Communications has snagged a $162-million federal government contract to make more than 300 bomb-detection machines for the country's airports. The company plans to hire several hundred workers.
Fort Myers -- Fast Cats Ferry Service will begin a three-hour Fort Myers-Key West ferry run this month. Fast Cats had planned to operate from Bradenton, but Fort Myers lured the service with a vacant $1-million terminal already built for a ferry operation three years ago that never materialized.
Pinellas County -- County commissioners voted against building another water treatment plant designed to further improve the quality of the county's chlorinated water; commissioners decided the $150-million price tag was too steep. One water treatment plant in the county is already close to completion after financial problems halted construction several times.
Sarasota -- Senate President John McKay named Sarasota businessman Vernon G. Buchanan to the board of Enterprise Florida. Buchanan is chairman of Buchanan Enterprises, which owns several businesses, including 15 auto dealerships. His term will end in 2005.
After a six-year restoration project, the Ca d'Zan, John and Mable Ringling's historic mansion, is open to the public again. The mansion, built in 1925 by John Ringling, had fallen into disrepair. But two years ago the Florida Legislature appointed Florida State University as the guardian of the estate. FSU paid more than $15 million for the restoration and art inside the home.
St. Petersburg -- Florida Power broke ground in March on a 495-megawatt combined-cycle power plant at the company's Hines Energy Complex in Polk County, one of several new plants planned for the area. The facility should be operating by late 2003.
Tampa -- Anchor Glass Container Corp. (OTCBB-AGCCP.OB), the nation's third-largest maker of glass beverage containers, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization to erase some $50 million in debt.
St. Joe Sells Arvida Realty Services
CLEARWATER -- Cendant Corp. has bought Clearwater-based Arvida Realty Services, the real estate brokerage arm of St. Joe Co., for $158 million. Cendant, which owns Sarasota-based Coldwell Banker, will operate ARS under the Coldwell name, making Coldwell the state's largest real estate brokerage with more than 300 offices.
Coldwell plans to close ARS' headquarters and about 100 offices and eliminate 765 jobs. St. Joe Co. does not plan to sell its Arvida community development unit.