South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group

Annual Report 1996


Part IV. 1996 SUBREGION ACCOMPLISHMENTS, INITIATIVES AND 1997 GOALS


SUBREGION III:
UPPER EAST COAST

[1996 Accomplishments] [1996 Initiatives] [1997 Goals]


a. Ecosystem Problems and Restoration Objectives

Alterations in hydrology have been the major anthropogenic impact on the Upper East Coast. Estuarine hydrology has been severely affected by construction of the drainage canal system, artificial stabilization of ocean inlets, development of the Intracoastal Waterway, and construction of cause ways across the lagoons. Terrestrial hydrology has been affected by the drainage works, which shorten and sharpen hydroperiods. Abrupt flood-control pulses of fresh water released from water management canals to Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and Lake Worth threaten estuarine productivity. Redesign of C-51 West by the Corps of Engineers will allow storage of larger quantities of water in the system and reduction of the amount released to Lake Worth, while still providing flood protection to developed areas of the C-51 basin.

Much of the natural area of the Upper East Coast was first converted to citrus culture and cattle range and pasture. Now urban development is rapidly expanding westward into these rural areas increasingly fragmenting and eliminating natural communities. Some current landowners in the Loxahatchee Slough have long-range plans for development. A series of land purchases through the Save Our Rivers program preserves some areas along the Loxahatchee River from development and offers the potential of restoration of hydrologic and habitat continuity in the watershed.

RESTORATION OBJECTIVES:

b. 1996 Accomplishments

Habitat Restoration

Restored approximately 6 acres of coastal grassland and strand habitat degraded by the invasion of exotic plants near the Fort Pierce Inlet. This habitat is critical to the continued existence of the federally listed threatened species, the Southeastern Beach Mouse. Six other listed plant and animal species occur in this habitat.

Ecologic Programs

Completed a cooperative aerial survey and published a data analysis to assess occurrence and distribution of sea turtles and marine mammals and to monitor vessel activity along Southeast Florida. This survey included the coast north to Melbourne during 1995-1996.

Water Management

Recommended potential sites for Regional Attenuation Facilities (RAFs). Planning conferences to develop conceptual designs for some sites were held. These RAFs would temporarily store flood waters and allow more natural timing of freshwater flows to estuaries.

Indian River Lagoon Planning

Completed a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the lagoon. This document, completed under the IRL, an estuary of national significance. The National Estuary Program outlines specific action plans for restoration and protection of the Lagoon, along with potential funding mechanisms and opportunities for local government participation. The plan was developed with input from local, state and federal government agencies as well as public stakeholders.

Completed Project Study Plan for Indian River Lagoon Restoration Feasibility Study. The feasibility cost-sharing agreement was executed on 29 July 1996.

Habitat Restoration

Reconnected 34 acres of isolated mosquito control impoundment area to the IRL. Since 1991, over 3,443 acres of mosquito control impoundments (20 separate impoundments) in Martin and St. Lucie counties have been reconnected to the lagoon, re-establishing much of the energy/ nutrient linkage between the wetlands and the lagoon, enhancing fisheries, and improving the overall habitat value within the lagoon.

Water Management

Completed design and construction of four stormwater retrofit projects. These projects provide water treatment for stormwater runoff from 1,000 acres prior to discharge into the Indian River Lagoon. In addition, four more projects have been initiated that, once constructed, will treat another 1,000 acres.

Involving the Public

Conducted educational programs for more than 2,300 adults and 600 children through Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FY&N), a public education program designed to reduce stormwater runoff and hence restore water quality in the IRL. FY&N focuses on nine areas of concern: Irrigation efficiency, use of sustainable mulches, recycling of yard waste, wildlife habitat creation, pesticide reduction, proper plant placement, fertilization, stormwater management, and waterfront issues. Public acceptance has been considerable.

c. 1996 Initiatives

Habitat Restoration

Initiated a habitat restoration project to restore hydrology and remove exotic vegetation in the 53-acre Blowing Rocks Preserve.

Eradication of Invasive Exotics

Initiated an exotic vegetation removal project that will remove exotics from a 70 acre tract along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.

Ecologic Programs

Began a study of the fish community in the Indian River - St. Lucie Estuary area to quantitatively determine prevalences of externally visible morphological abnormalities, including skeletal and scale deformities, lesions, and tumors.

d. 1997 Goals

Water Management

Design and implement BMPs to address excessive fresh water inflows to the IRL.

Construct a 40-acre ft. stormwater detention facility to treat stormwater runoff from Manatee Pocket's 630-acre drainage basin.

Acquire lands to create a buffer around the environmentally sensitive (Class I Waters) West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area. This pristine area is a major remnant of the Loxahatchee Slough and supplies base flows to the Federal and State designated Wild and Scenic Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River.

Retrofit untreated stormwater outfalls along the IRL in support of the IRL SWIM Plan. This project will serve as a demonstration project for other similar areas.

Ecologic Programs

Develop a success criterion based on fish abnormalities for the St. Lucie-Lower Indian River estuarine system.

Develop hydrologic and ecologic evaluation tools specific to the Upper East Coast region.

Formulate regional water resource plans for Martin and St. Lucie counties to address the much needed attenuation of stormwater runoff to St. Lucie Estuary and IRL and improve supplemental irrigation water supply.

Indian River Lagoon Planning

Begin preliminary assessment of plan alternatives to determine effectiveness at meeting the identified objectives for the Indian River Lagoon Feasibility Study.

Habitat Restoration

Create 3.6 acres of mangrove and spartina estuarine wetlands and improve 2.7 acres of exiting mangrove wetlands in the OFW of the Loxahatchee River Aquatic Preserve near Sims Creek.

Remove spoil material and exotics within the Jupiter Ridge Natural Area to create a wetland shelf which will be planted with smooth cord grass and two species of mangroves.

Wading birds scene Changes in water levels impact fish abundance on wading bird foraging and other wildlife habitat.

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