It’s cold, even in Florida, these days. And, with the recent snap that dropped temps in the Sunshine State, even the area’s favorite aquatic mammal, the manatee, is restless and on the lookout for warmer places to chill.
The Associated Press and the BBC are reporting that nearly 300 manatees are lounging about in the warm water outflow from the company’s Big Bend Power Station this week, enjoying a nice warm up during this especially chilly introduction to winter. (They often gather there once Tampa Bay drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.)
In fact, so many manatees have found that warm spot over the years that Tampa Electric built the Manatee Viewing Center about 25 years ago. The center is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary. During the center’s open season, Nov. 1 through April 15, displays, interactive exhibits and more teach visitors of all ages about the life cycle of the manatee and the challenges it faces. Center volunteers and staff, many of them TECO Energy retirees, answer questions and provide additional educational information.
Visitors get to view manatees from observation platforms, a tidal walkway that takes visitors deep into a mangrove habitat, and (for more distant vistors) two online Web cams that digital visitors can personally control for up to two minutes at a time.
According the company, Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivered electricity to the community for 16 years before the commercial operation of Big Bend Unit 4 in 1985. That year, people started seeing manatees in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal, where saltwater–taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4–flowed, clean and warm, back to the bay.
“It’s like a warm bathtub for them,” said Wendy Anastasiou, an environmental specialist at the power station’s manatee viewing center quoted by the Associated Press.
Big Bend Power Station has four coal-fired units with a combined output of almost 1,800 MW. Big Bend Power Station expanded to meet the demands of rapid growth during the 1970s and 1980s. The first unit began service in 1970; the second and third generating units were added in 1973 and 1976; and Unit Four was added in 1985.
With the capacity provided by three combustion turbines that serve as peaking units, combined output from Big Bend Power Station is over 1,900 MW.
To visit the manatee Web cam, go to http://www.tampaelectric.com/manatee. The East and West Web cams are located under the “Fun Stuff!” tab.