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CITGO leads environmental restoration event

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Nearly 300 volunteers recently gathered at the Rock Ponds, Tampa Bay's largest wetland restoration site, to take part in the largest volunteer marsh planting in the history of Tampa Bay. Volunteers planted 40 000 plugs of salt marsh cordgrass to help to restore fish and coastal wildlife habitats and improve water quality in the area. This record setting event was supported by CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Tampa Bay Watch, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and Hillsborough County.

CITGO employees were among the community volunteers who planted grass plugs into intertidal marsh areas of the Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project, the biggest coastal restoration project in Tampa Bay. CITGO supplied lunch and commemorative t-shirts for all volunteers as part of its Caring for Our Coast initiative. Caring for Our Coast was started in the summer of 2014 to boost environmental protection and revitalisation, especially in the Gulf Coast areas still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Since 2014, CITGO has committed resources for projects targeted to involve more than 2500 volunteers engaged in more than 40 volunteer events to restore nearly 400 acres in the Gulf Coast by planting over 140 000 plugs of dune grass, trees and bushes.

"The Gulf Coast is home to two CITGO refineries and many of our employees," said CITGO President and Chief Executive Officer Nelson P. Martinez. "We at CITGO are glad to have this opportunity to come together with Tampa Bay Watch and other local groups to help protect and restore fragile Gulf Coast habitats."Salt marsh planting projects help to restore and stabilise coastal areas, as well as the estuarine and coastal fishery food chains on which many species of fish and marine mammals depend.

"Salt marsh habitats are struggling as a result of 100 years of urbanisation activities, but restoration projects like this do a great service to the wildlife that call the marsh home," said Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch. "With support from CITGO and other volunteers making this a record setting event, we can start to turn the tide and use the strength of our numbers to protect Tampa Bay's vital ecosystems."

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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