FW: From today's Miami Herald: Florida Bay Hit By Dirty Water

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Fri Oct 22 12:29:10 EDT 1999

Coral Listers - Please see attached article.

This is exactly why the Everglades Restoration Program must be implemented!

Today significantly less water flows through the south Florida ecosystem
than before the complex network of canals and levees were put in place.  

Getting the water right, which is the major goal of the Everglades
Restoration Plan, will mean that most of the excess water will not be lost
to tide but will be captured.

The Florida Keys have always been at the receiving end of what the
Everglades sends to it... In years of drought that means receiving little
natural fresh water runoff through the sloughs and into Florida Bay... in
times of excess, too much freshwater... a balance needs to be struck so the
natural system can be enhanced so as to respond to these fluctuating
hydroperiods... just as it did in the centuries an millennia prior to man
mucking-up the system.

As long as there are population demands on the resources of south Florida...
and as long as there are "wet" hurricanes (like Irene)... the system will be
tested.  However, without restoration the situation will get worse and
articles like the one below will be commonplace.

Congress will vote on the Everglades Plan next year... let them know why we
need this...it's more than the Everglades that are at stake... it's the
Florida Reef tract as well.

Cheers to all,

William F. Precht
EcoSciences Program Manager
Miami, FL

 Reprinted with permission

Published Friday, October 22, 1999, in the Miami Herald
Florida Bay hit by dirty water
Irene's overflow spreads trouble

nklingener at herald.com

Millions of gallons of freshwater released into Florida Bay to ease
flooding in Miami-Dade County have created a giant plume of dirty water
that is causing fish kills and sponge die-offs and is heading for the
Keys reef tract.

And state water managers say the water released from the C-111 canal,
the primary
drainage channel in South Dade, after Hurricane Irene will continue
indefinitely into
Barnes Sound and on to Florida Bay.

>From Lower Matecumbe up to the Everglades, Florida Bay looks like
"chocolate milk," said Dave Savage, Upper Keys manager of the Florida
Keys National Marine Sanctuary, who has been flying over the area to see
what's happening in the marine environment.

"All we can do is document it and tell the [South Florida] Water
Management District that this is what happens when you open up the
floodgates," Savage said.  "You have to sacrifice some of the biota to
protect the built environment in Miami. "Every time they do that during
a major flood event, they're killing off a lot of the critters in the
Biscayne Bay watershed and in Florida Bay."

State water managers "say they send the water to tide," said Karen Lee,
an Islamorada environmentalist. "Sending it to tide is like saying you
sweep it under the carpet. Actually, what you're doing is you're sending
that polluted water into the estuaries of the Upper Keys."

Savage said he has received confirmed reports of mangrove snapper fish
kills and sponge die-offs in Blackwater Sound. "We're already seeing a
lot of turbidity in the passes" or areas between Keys where water moves
from Florida Bay to the ocean, Savage said. "That turbid water is making
it out to the reef. You really can't make any predictions, but it
definitely can't help."

Key Largo resident Ellen Alderman was shocked when she took a look at
Blackwater Sound this week.  "I went, 'Oh, my God.' It was wet
cement-looking. A very different look of what I see after storms," she
said. "It looked like chalk. It's Thursday and the visibility is still
six inches."  Alderman, a pediatric physical therapist, is concerned
about the long-term effects on the area and she is letting politicians,
water managers and environmental groups know about it.

"If it continues to go on," she said, "what's the future in the Keys?"

Sanctuary biologists are still assessing Irene's effects on the reefs.
So far, visibility is so poor that it's hard to tell how severe the
damage is, said Cheva Heck, a sanctuary spokeswoman. A check on Lower
Keys reefs revealed broken branch corals and nicked and scoured boulder
corals, but not the same kind of severe beating that the reefs took
during Hurricane Georges, Heck said. "There was almost not a lot of new
stuff to take out," Heck said. "They got hit so hard by Georges that
there wasn't much more to be done by this hurricane."

In the Upper Keys, many lobster pots ended up on bank reefs, Savage
said.  Some of the sanctuary's marker buoys, which post areas where no
fishing is allowed, were lost.  But the primary concern was the water
quality issues raised by the rush of water through the C-111, where all
13 gates were opened over the weekend to help drain the South Florida
mainland. Irene brought up to 13 inches of rain to parts of Dade County.

A week after Irene struck, "we're not done yet" releasing water, said
Ann Overton, spokeswoman for the water district, which runs the region's
system of canals and levees. "We still have a lot to discharge. The
storm is not over for us. There's still a lot of water to move."

The district doesn't like releasing such a giant pulse of fresh water
into the bay, but it has little choice because it is mandated by law to
protect the health and safety of South Florida residents, Overton said.

The district will conduct environmental assessments of the flood's
effect on Florida Bay, which for more than a decade has been the subject
of environmental and political concerns because of algae blooms and sea
grass die-off. Storms like Irene stir up the bay bottom, clouding the
waters even more.

The district is also facing severe criticism from Dade politicians. The
Miami-Dade Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to create a task force
to study whether water managers moved fast enough to release water into
the sound before Hurricane Irene hit.

While mainlanders are calling for investigations on why the water wasn't
drained faster, islanders are concerned about being at the bottom of the
drain pipe. "That resource is as vitally important to the fisheries and
the tourism industry of the Keys as is the damage to agricultural lands
and homes in the western areas that are being so flooded," said Lee, the
Islamorada environmentalist. "It's a terrible problem, but it's not a
new problem. It's a problem that creates an opportunity for education."

Herald staff writer Susana Bellido contributed to this report.

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