Reducing Our Risk

Floating Island, International

Entry Overview

A BioHaven is a man-made ecosystem that mimics naturally occurring wetlands. The result is a highly efficient, natural way to improve water quality by transitioning disastrous excess nutrients through the food web via biofilms and periphyton.  The islands - buoyant, porous mats made from 100% recycled plastics and planted with local vegetation- become home to a diverse mix of wildlife while protecting shorelines and water sources from weather and man-made disasters.   

Excess inorganic nutrients in water cycle into harmful algae blooms that consume all the oxygen, creating “dead water.” Fish, the natural predators of mosquito and midge larvae, die off, allowing insect populations to flourish. Blue Tongue, West Nile and other vector insect diseases infect wildlife, humans and domestic animals.

Biomimetics is the science of adapting designs from nature to solve modern problems.  Weather related disasters need sound, workable solutions and over 6,000 FTWs positioned worldwide by FII, Inc. have solved these complex problems while withstanding numerous freeze/thaw cycles, as well as typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and major snowfalls.


General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
10052 Floating Island Way
Shepherd, Montana 59079
United States
Population Impacted: 
US/International population
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Over 80% of waterways in the northern Great Plains are phosphorus polluted. (1.) The affects of this pollution translate into an imbalance in nature that reverberates through the food web, inducing unnatural vector insect populations that cause debilitating disease in humans, animals, and birds. As usage of chemical based fertilizers expand, this phenomenon will also expand. (1.) USEPA, 2009, National Lakes Assessment
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
Everyone and everything is at risk when water is at risk. Polluted water puts domestic animals, wildlife, fish, birds and people all in a threatened, unhealthy environment. Near Billings, the sacred spring at Chief Plenty Coup’s home is now polluted with fecal coliform and phosphorus. The once pristine water was used by Northern Plains Tribes for ceremonies, sweats, healing, and prayer. Now unusable, these traditions are threatened for future generations. This is one example of what is happening worldwide.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
People and animals should not drink polluted water. Children shouldn't play in polluted water. Communities with phosphorus impaired water and huge mosquito problems do not congregate outside during summer months. Mosquitoes infect people and animals with West Nile virus. Wildlife die from midge caused Blue Tongue disease. Fish cannot live in oxygen deprived water. Recreational fishing and subsistence lifestyles among the Northern Plains Tribes are greatly impacted.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
People do not go outside during the summer and early fall months without quantities of repellent chemicals on. Deer and antelope populations have been decimated. Sage Grouse numbers are historically low and may soon be listed as “endangered”. Chemical spraying blankets the communities with poisons several times every week. Favorite fishing spots no longer have fish in them.
Preparedness Goal: 
ie - What did you do to reduce this risk? We resurrect the food web, engendering life forms that prey upon disease vector insects while cycling phosphorus from water.
Implementing Actions: 

List specific activities or specifically what your solution does. 


The primary uses for FTW products include water quality improvement for wastewater and storm water, lake water clarity improvement, fishery enhancement, destratification and dissolved oxygen enhancement, beneficial insect habitat and creation of waterfowl and riparian edge wildlife habitat. A primary function of FTW technology is to speed up the cycling of nutrients into appropriate biota within target waterways. Secondary uses for FTWs include erosion control, wave dampening and structural platforms, stemming from the product’s materials and construction design. FII has developed numerous case studies around municipal wastewater treatment, storm water, lakes and agricultural runoff, living shorelines and erosion control.



Describe Your Solution: 

Describe your solution. How do these combined actions reduce risk from weather-related disaster impacts?

Weather related disasters will create massive oil spills, shoreline degradation, erosion, run-off and flooding on agricultural lands, levee breaches, insect infestations and many other difficult situations that Floating BioHaven Islands have successfully improved. All these situations have occurred somewhere in the world and BioHaven placement has helped restore the affected communities to normal. Island size ranges from a few square feet, for placement in stock tanks and water features to control mosquitoes and midges, up to acre sized islands that clean major lakes and waterways. BioHavens, anchored along shorelines and planted with native grasses, buffer disastrous erosion from storms. Extreme weather causes fertilizers full of phosphorus, nitrates, ammonia and toxic metals to flow into water sources where they lower dissolved oxygen levels, killing off fish and allowing vector insects to thrive.  The roots of plants on the BioHaven islands utilize the nutrients/contaminants and aerobic and anaerobic bacteria form a dense biofilm on the matrix and among the roots and rhizomes of the plants.  The nutrient reduction that happens when using BioHavens makes this technology ideally suited for weed and algae control.  When native minnows are introduced into BioHaven cleaned water, mosquito and midge levels dramatically drop because the larvae are consumed. Unpolluted water means healthy people, higher wildlife numbers, improved wildlife health and happier communities.


As a positive economic aspect, demonstration of food web resurrection and corresponding vector insect mitigation has international implications around the devastating impact of malaria and dengue fever. Potentially, a business model advancing this prospect could be developed. 

In Montana deer hunting permits have been dramatically reduced because of massive herd reductions caused by Blue Tongue, a vector insect driven disease and tourism is negatively affected by excessive mosquito and midge populations. The lack of tourism in rural and economically disadvantaged tribal communities creates fewer jobs and more poverty. Communities lose populations when water sources are polluted. These affects can all be mitigated by utilizing BioHavens.


Reduction in suspended solids, including colloids that are typically problematic to remove from water;

  1. Associated improved water clarity;
  2. Temperature homogenization;
  3. Destratification and expanded aeration, top to bottom;
  4. Aggressive nutrient cycling into periphyton and ultimately, fishery enhancement.

        5.  Reduced fecal coliforms

        6. Reduced midge and mosquito populations



Floating Island, International helps communities recover from disasters that occur all over the world.

The technology, invented by Bruce Kania and scientists and engineers associated with Montana State University, has allowed people impacted by extreme weather related incidents to recover, repair and improve their environment.  BioHavens make waterways come to life again, allowing dragonflies, frogs, damselflies, and fish to thrive and reduce vector insects to levels that are compatible with outdoor living. Communities cannot thrive without healthy water and Floating Island, International is committed to providing just that worldwide.



What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

BioHavens grow biofilm, to which suspended solids present in water bond. While this is beneficial, resulting improvements in water clarity means that sunlight can extend into deeper water.  This can trigger growth of aquatic vegetation.  Accordingly, BioHavens must be accompanied by good waterway management/stewardship practices. Potentially, BioHavens can escape from their moorage .  To date, with over 6,000 in place, we know of only two instances where islands have escaped.  These islands were recaptured and remoored.

Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

Capital costs for materials, equipment and installation of the four FTW options have been developed. FTWs have low operation and maintenance requirements. Life cycle costs can be calculated for FTWs and compared to other technologies. For phosphorus removal, FII has estimated that life cycle costs are much lower for FTW options than for Best Management Practices investigated by other researchers.   Island solutions can be modeled to precisely accommodate a waterway’s nutrient load.  For example, a 500 square foot island, costing approximately $15,500, could fix a ten acre waterway given relatively low nutrient loading.  Many examples of similar results are available within the FII case study compendium.


What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

Our solutions need environmentally aware countries, states, municipalities, and property owners, with financial assets or grant writing capabilities that want clean water and an improved quality of life for their families, clients, and resident populations. BioHavens are presently being used around the world, in over 6,000 locations, with substantial and measurable results in all locations. Documentation of those results is available on request. Similar inorganic fertilizers and warmer climate conditions exist worldwide and the BioHaven systems work effectively anywhere in the world. Matrix is manufactured at four United States locations, and also in China and New Zealand. Shipping cost are variable, depending on the replication site and distance from a BioHaven manufacturer. Local vegetation is always used so access to plants that thrive under local conditions is a necessity.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

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