API plans restoration and reforestation program for Valle de Las Garzas Lagoon

The Manzanillo Port Authority (API), is developing one of the most important "compensation" projects of the port, the restoration and reforestation of the Valle de las Garzas Lagoon.  Plans are to create 6 new islands, which will then be planted with white mangrove saplings.

In 2004 API removed more than 26 hectares of mangroves as part of the plan to enlarge the port, and to compensate for this loss of habitat, API agreed to develop and improve the lagoon and turn it into a protected estuary.

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The project began in December 2011, and the first phase of the plan is expected to be completed by the end of June 2012.  Based on previous studies, API identified damaging effects in the lagoon, such as anthropogenic pollution (pollution caused or produced by humans), bad oxygenation, reduced water flow, destruction of the original vegetation, and high levels of organic materials. (Photos: lagoon before the start of the project, left; lagoon where it meets the man-made channel leading to the sea, right)

To reduce the loss to the ecosystem, and to generate social and ecological benefits, the restoration program began with the dredging of the lagoon, and designing the islands, which will eventually become wildlife sanctuaries. (Photos: blue polygon is projected deepened channel & new chain of 6 islands  depicted in green with arrow, left; artist's sketch of lagoon with pedestrian walkway shown in white dashed line, right)

The port authority contracted with a Mexican company, Dragamex, S.A. de C.V. out of Mexico City. Dragamex is a business with specialized equipment that will dredge a deep channel which will allow an increase in fresh sea water flow. (Photos: the Amphibex dredger at work, left; area where lagoon meets the channel to the sea, soon to be deepened to ensure fresh exchannge of water from the sea, right)

The project began by staking out the areas that will become islands, and staking the area to be dredged to form a deep channel leading to the sea. The polygon island outlines will then be circled with a mesh-like PVC screen reinforced with galvanized steel wire, securely attached to the stakes. (Photos: stakes & PVC screen encircling the islands-to-be, left; 2 workers get ready to unroll the mesh-like screen to begin building the islands, right)

Large, heavy duty bags, also made of PVC will be filled with the silt and mud dredged from the channel, and will become an integral part of each island. The work will be done by the Amphibex dredger, a 22-ton amphibious general purpose excavator made in Quebec, Canada by Normrock Industries. (Photos: a sign installed by the federal government tells about the project and states that 104,781,690.77 billion pesos is the cost of the restoration; behind the sign is the shipment of large bags ready to fill with silt and dirt to create the islands, left; birds enjoy their new perches--stakes and channel markers, right)

Once the islands are complete, they will be reforested with the mangrove saplings and other types of plants. All in all, upon completion, 10 hectares of mangroves will be restored along the shore line, 7 hectares will be planted on the 6 islands, and another 8.06 hectares of the wetlands areas will be improved by improving water circulation. Since 2009 API has reforested more than 20,985 mangroves on 5.2 hectares around the port, and has created a nursery to grow the trees until they are planted on the islands. (Photos: nursery, left; planting the saplings, right)

Some of the benefits of this project are:
  • Reduction of risk of flooding.
  • Creation of new spaces to develop educational and recreational activities, and for scientific investigation.
  • Improvements on the water quality by having the lagoon connect directly to the sea.
  • Space conservation to protect flora and fauna, such as the roseate spoonbill, photo right.
  • Increase the mangrove area to improve the eco-system, provide a natural habitat for nesting water birds and other wildlife, as well as to protect against tidal surges in times of tropical storms.
  • Improve water circulation promoting a better eco-system.

The port authority also has other plans in the making. Manzanillo has 2 huge sports complexes, one on the main Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, and the other on Elias Zamora Verdusco, the street that runs parallel to the boulevard. In between the two complexes is the Las Garzas Lagoon. An elevated nature walkway from one complex to the other, complete with bicycle lanes will join the two. Numerous elevated palapa-roofed restaurants and other concessions will be along the way, all designed not to interfere with nature. (Photos: Artist's rendering of the proposed entrance to the park on the main boulevard at the Cinco de Mayo sports complex, left; the planned pedestrian walkway from one complex to the other, right)

The lagoon will be open to all non-motorized watercraft, such as kayaks and paddle boats. Non-invasive activities, such as a zipline canopy tour or a nature hike are also being considered. All activities offered will have minimal ecological impact. (Photos: enjoying a zipline tour, left; kayaking the lagoon, right)