TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center finally reopens on Monday after closing in March of 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Big Bend Power Plant is a favorite for the marine mammals when the weather cools down, and manatees gather in the warm water near the plant.
During the time the center was closed, TECO made a lot of changes, and did renovations, so it will be a whole new experience for guests.
“It's gone from this little tiny spot to this really cool place to go,” said Jamie Woodlee, Senior Environmental Coordinator.
This will be the viewing center’s 35th season. Visitors will see a new education center, nature trails that lead to a 50-foot lookout tower, and of course, the manatees.
The manatees gather near the power plant when the water temperature drops below 72°. The water in the canal comes from the power plant, it’s brought from the other side to cool the system, then the warm water is released in the canal.
Woodlee said the past year has been especially hard on Florida’s manatees because of red tide, and careless people, but she thinks the center can help.
“Manatees have had a really hard time this year. The death count is the highest it's been in a very long time, if not ever, due to boat hits and algae and not having enough food on the coast so the more we teach people and the more they learn about it I think we have a better chance,” said Woodlee.