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Beach renourishment may be harming reefs

State environmental officials are concerned that silting from the massive beach renourishment project at Indian Rocks Beach may be killing coral, sponges and algae that form small offshore reefs, an important habitat for many types of fish. The discovery of a 2-inch buildup of sediment on the "patch reefs," about 450 feet off Indian Rocks Beach may threaten Pinellas County's ability to get a permit for a similar beach renourishment project in Indian Shores.

Although officials with the state Department of Environmental Regulation are concerned about the silting, Pinellas County officials contend that the effects on the offshore marine communities are minor.

In deciding whether to issue a permit for the Indian Shores project, state officials will weigh the damage to the environment against such benefits as increased protection against storms and increased recreational opportunities.

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