Spoils Of Peace
Caring for the Indian River Lagoon’s Spoil Islands
They began with material that was tossed aside, cast out of the way during the expansion of a great shipping lane. Now they are treasures in their own right. The spoil islands that dot the Indian River Lagoon started as a by-product of the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway. More than half a century later, these islands that were made by man have been claimed by nature. Many of the spoil islands are rich environments where numerous species of birds nest and rear their young, or simply rest from their migrations. And through the Adopt-A-Spoil Island program, many Treasure Coast residents are working as volunteers to help preserve and enhance these terrains.
Describing the origin of the spoil islands from dredging, Barchan Rodgers, the spoil island coordinator of the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves field office, explains, “The material pulled up by the dredge is referred to as spoil.”
“While nowadays the spoil is normally transported to upland sites,” Rodgers says, “in the past it was common to deposit the material along the edges of the channel. Many of these spoil islands were either created or further deposited upon during the dredging of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Thus, the dredging of the Intracoastal not only opened up opportunities for shipping, it led to an ecological opportunity. “If managed and transitioned properly, these man-made islands could serve to provide certain habitats, some critically needed by local species in regions where they’ve lost their natural habitat.”