MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Drivers and fishermen who frequent the Sunshine Skyway Bridge may notice large concrete pyramids near the pier.
In a news conference Wednesday, officials from the Florida Department of Transportation discussed wave attenuation devices, or WADs. The structures will be put in place to help prevent erosion along I-275 and the Skyway pier.
They range from eight-to-10 feet tall and will be placed in the water, partially submerged, about 200 feet from the shoreline. FDOT will construct two rows of them, placed just inches from each other, along the southern end of the bridge.
The WADs work by reducing the momentum and energy of large waves as they travel over and through the structure. This will help stabilize the shoreline and protect infrastructure, while providing a safe habitat for marine life and plants.
Officials predict that, given the shallow waters, the WADs will create an ideal environment for sea grass to thrive. Sea grass provides food for wildlife like manatees, serves as habitat for fish and other sea life, and helps keep the water clear.
Sea grass levels are at historic lows in Tampa Bay waters, with Old Tampa Bay losing 12% of its seagrass between 2020 and 2022, according to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Manatee deaths have been attributed to loss of sea grass across Florida.
The WADs will only be partially submerged, meaning boaters will be able to spot them in the water. Officials estimate a few feet of the pyramid will be visible, sticking out of the water. FDOT said signs will be posted in the area to warn boaters.