RIVIERA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 5, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida Power & Light Company today announced that Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center™ will open its doors tomorrow, Feb. 6, to visitors eager to see and learn about manatees, the environment and how these endangered marine mammals depend on warm water to sustain themselves during the chilly winter period.
A ribbon-cutting event was held today with FPL representatives and community leaders at the 16,000-sq.-ft. facility. The educational attraction stands to play a significant role in raising awareness about the gentle giants.
"A key commitment associated with our new Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center was that FPL would provide an easily accessible, public space for the community and visitors to observe and learn about manatees," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "We are extremely proud of this wonderful facility, which will educate visitors about the environment and how we can all work together to protect it and all who inhabit it. It also will explain the role power plants play in sustaining these beloved treasures."
Prior to September 11, 2001, before security restrictions changed, area residents and visitors were able to access the Riviera Beach plant grounds to see manatees bask in the warm water outflows of the facility. Fast forward to today. Manatee Lagoon sits on five waterfront acres with sweeping vistas of the Intracoastal Waterway and presents dynamic, hands-on, engaging interactive exhibits for visitors to learn about the endangered and unique Florida manatee, and the flora and fauna of the ecosystem it inhabits.
The Center offers free admission, two levels of exhibit and meeting space, a boardwalk to observe manatees, picnic areas, pavilion, café and gift shop. Galleries highlight manatee anatomy, migration patterns and the ecosystem of the Lake Worth Lagoon. A manatee and calf sculpture crafted by Florida artist, Chris Dixon, creates a backdrop for family photo ops outside the facility. Two manatee skeletons adorn the building's lobby.
For decades, the warm water outflows from the adjacent FPL Riviera Beach plant have attracted hundreds of manatees each year that follow a migration pattern handed down from mother to calf.
"World travelers are enthralled when experiencing seasonal animal migrations firsthand," said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing organization for Palm Beach County. "Here in The Palm Beaches, we have our own version of swallows returning to Capistrano—only instead of feathers and beaks, we have the luxury of telling a heartwarming story in a first-class facility through the flippers and whiskers of our beloved manatees. I expect Manatee Lagoon will become a favorite spot for residents and visitors alike."
"FPL has been a longtime partner in sharing information about manatees with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that helps us assess the health of manatee herds," said Ernie Marks, regional director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "These creatures occupy a special place not just in the ecosystem, but in the hearts and minds of everyone who recognizes the important role they play in Florida's future."
"A few years from now, we would like to hear that a child's visit to Manatee Lagoon inspired a dream of becoming a veterinarian or marine biologist after learning about these wonderful animals and the ecosystem," said Silagy. "Or, when they understand how our power plant works next door, an engineer."
A newly repositioned manatee webcam is an added feature that broadcasts live images showing when manatees swim into the power plant's warm-water refuge to receive relief from water temperatures during a cold snap. Manatee viewing is at its peak November through March. Factors that determine optimal manatee viewing include water temperature, the occurrence of ingoing and outgoing tides which impact lagoon water temperatures and the availability of nearby food sources.
Manatee Lagoon is open year-round, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The facility is closed on Mondays and major holidays. For more information, go to: www.VisitManateeLagoon.com.
Editor's note: To access b-roll click here. For still photography of Manatee Lagoon center, please click here.
About Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving approximately 4.8 million customer accounts across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2014, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the fifth year in a row. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all utilities nationwide. The company was recognized in 2015 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,700 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, including being ranked in the top 10 worldwide for innovativeness and community responsibility as part of Fortune's 2015 list of "World's Most Admired Companies." NextEra Energy is also the parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. For more information, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.
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SOURCE Florida Power & Light Company