RIVIERA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) executives and community leaders rolled up their sleeves, donned hardhats and wielded ceremonial shovels to break ground today on a manatee education center that will raise awareness about the status of this beloved species for generations to come. The new facility will sit beside FPL's new Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center on the Lake Worth Lagoon where manatees have long gathered to keep warm during the winter months.
"Our new, cleaner, more fuel-efficient Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center not only provides FPL customers with electric power that keep rates low and well under the national average, its operations and location create a special opportunity to help protect this endangered treasure that calls Florida's waters home," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "Manatees have come to depend on the warm water flowing out of this facility to regulate chilly, life-threatening body temperatures during the winter season. They can't speak for themselves to let us know what it takes to protect them, so we will help tell that important story by building a dynamic education center that engages audiences and explains the role power plants play in ensuring sea cows are part of Florida's future."
FPL has a decades-long history of supporting manatee research at its coastal facilities that attract manatees including those at Cape Canaveral and Port Everglades. The company has sponsored tagging programs, monitoring and aerial surveys and shared information with agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help assess the health of manatee herds.
Manatees are instinctively triggered to follow a migratory pattern that brings them back to areas of Florida where they frequent warm-water springs, refuges and the warm-water outflows that are a by-product of operations by coastal plants such as FPL's Riviera Beach Energy Center for survival to ward off the harmful impacts of cold stress.
Manatee viewing at the new facility will be best when conditions are just right – sustained cold water temperatures over several days resulting in water thermometer readings of 68 degrees or less, the occurrence of ingoing and outgoing tides which impact lagoon water temperatures, and the availability of nearby food sources.
"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 attraction will showcase manatees and other species that inhabit the Lake Worth Lagoon. The Key West-style-designed, 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. Admission will be free. The attraction is targeted for completion and grand opening celebration during the 2015/2016 winter season.
A newly repositioned manatee webcam is an added feature that will be available to broadcast live images that show when manatees swim into the power plant's warm-water refuge to heat up their massive bodies.
"I'm looking forward to the day that this parking lot is filled with school buses and other vehicles bringing tourists from all over the world as well as residents of South Florida who are eager to learn more about coastal ecosystems, the role of power plants and what it takes to protect these special creatures," said Jeri Muoio, mayor of West Palm Beach.
For more information on FPL's manatee education center, please visit: www.FPL.com/Riviera. To learn more about FPL's relationship with manatees or to order manatee brochures, please visit www.FPL.com/manatee.
Florida Power & Light Company Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving approximately 4.7 million customer accounts across nearly half of the state of Florida. As of year-end 2013, FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 25 percent lower than the national average and the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among utilities nationwide. The company was recognized in 2014 as the most trusted U.S. electric utility by Market Strategies International, and has earned the national ServiceOne Award for outstanding customer service for an unprecedented 10 consecutive years. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,900 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE). For more information, visit www.FPL.com.
EDITORS NOTE: B-roll and other images from the FPL Manatee Education Center groundbreaking event are available through links below.