Harvester rakes weeds from ponds to help keep lagoon healthy | New


A large machine that looks like floating farm equipment is helping protect the struggling Indian River Lagoon by clearing tons of encroaching vegetation from numerous Brevard County stormwater ponds.

The county’s Mobitrac amphibious harvester rakes weeds and other unwanted plants from ponds before vegetation can decay and release nutrients that can be carried by excessive rainfall to the river. These nutrients can trigger algal blooms that deplete the waters of oxygen and block sunlight, killing fish and leaving large swaths of the lagoon devoid of seagrass.

“Over the past three years, we’ve removed about three million pounds of vegetation,” said Robert Rindone, a maintenance worker with the Brevard County Department of Natural Resources Management, who teams up with the operator of heavy equipment Chris Hall to operate the harvester.

Equipped with a rake nearly 12 feet long and about 3 feet wide, the diesel-powered harvester cuts through ponds managed by the Department of Scottmoor at North Brevard in Long Point Park near Sebastian Inlet, Rindone said. .

Crews collect vegetation — primarily hyacinth, water lettuce and alligator — year-round and haul it to county landfills to stimulate grass growth.

“On a good day, we can get out around 35,000 to 40,000 pounds,” Rindone said. “It’s an impressive number. We have just completed the Merritt Island Ponds near Florida Boulevard. We removed 137,000 pounds of vegetation in about two weeks.

A federal grant obtained several years ago provided Brevard with funds for the aquatic harvesting program, Rindone said. In addition to the harvester, the department uses two excavators, a Bobcat loader and two trucks for the work, Rindone said.

The equipment allows the department to remove vegetation from its ponds without using herbicides almost all the time, said Raleigh Berry, the department’s senior environmental scientist for ecosystem management.

“As we now focus on harvesting to control vegetation, we sometimes encounter situations where limited use of herbicides in our managed ponds remains unavoidable, such as around stormwater structures that could be damaged by our equipment,” Berry said.

Rindone and Hall recently cleaned ponds at Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville and Fairglen Elementary School in Cocoa.

“We were trying to do it before school started for safety reasons so we wouldn’t be dragging stuff with a big cutter head on the Mobitrac,” Hall said.

Rindone said he was proud to help preserve the lagoon for future generations.

“We’re doing the county a great service in my opinion,” he said. “We are saving the river. Maybe it’s just a little, but every little bit counts. I fish every weekend and have a 6 year old boy and a 2 year old girl. But I want to have that river there in 30 years when my kids grow up.


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