South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group

Annual Report 1996



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

a. Ecosystem Problems and Restoration Objectives

Major ecosystem issues in the Lower East Coast (LEC) include: human population growth and land development; water conservation for wildlife and human populations; quantity and quality of freshwater flow to estuaries; quality of ground water and inland surface water; preservation and restoration of natural areas; loss of habitat; invasive nonindigenous species; and lack of common environmental understanding and perspective.

The sheer size and continuing expansion of the human population, with its demand for land and water, has altered the natural South Florida ecosystem. The population includes many different races and income levels, large numbers of non-native residents, including immigrants and retirees, and several transient groups, including tourists and seasonal residents. Each group views the environment with differing values, demands, and commitment. Development of a unified public vision of environmental quality may be the greatest challenge for Everglades restoration.

As the coastal corridor has already been developed, most new LEC residents settle in noncoastal inland areas, where wetland development impacts water supply by reducing the size of recharge areas. The water table has been lowered, reducing the flow from coastal springs and artesian wells, and increasing the amplitude of seasonal fluctuations. Stormwater discharges have increased and water quality degraded by runoff of pollutants from urbanized and other developed areas. Demand for ground water is expected to increase enormously, but because of the shallow depth of the Biscayne Aquifer contamination is a constant threat.

Natural tributary drainage from the Everglades to the coast has been totally replaced by an extensive system of water management canals. The receiving estuaries are detrimentally affected by the impact of sporadic, short-term, extraordinarily high volume discharges that include stormwater, excess water from the WCAs, water released to the LEC to recharge ground water and prevent saltwater intrusion, and drainage water from agricultural and urban land.

The great loss of habitat resulting from extensive land development has almost eliminated some vegetative communities from the LEC landscape. The amount of protected natural habitat, now scattered in fragments within the urban/agricultural landscape, is so small, that it does not guarantee the future of threatened and endangered species or other native species.

The LEC is the center of distribution of non-native plant and animal species introduced into the South Florida environment. Their rampart spread has had devastating impacts on native vegetation communities and the general ecological balance. Over 300 species of exotic plants are known to be naturalized in natural community fragments just in Dade County south of the Miami River.

Most, if not all, of the above described problems can be attributed to sprawling suburban growth throughout the LEC. A key to achieving the long-term protection and restoration of the South Florida ecosystem in the LEC will be the promotion of more sustainable urban development practices and patterns. Facilitating sound infill development and redevelopment will be an important tool for redirecting some of the anticipated future population growth in the LEC away from lands that will be needed to restore the Everglades Ecosystem and meet the water needs of urban and agricultural users and the natural system.


b. 1996 Accomplishments

Ecologic Programs

Developed success criterion for restoration based on prevalences of fish abnormalities in Biscayne Bay.

Released hatchery-reared red drum in Biscayne Bay in an effort to rebuild the population. This brings the total number released since 1990 to 1,603,000. Anglers caught 43 red drum in the annual Hunt for Reds.

Completed toxicity testing of sediments collected from more than 90 sites in Biscayne Bay. Results to date suggest some sites in Biscayne Bay are degraded. When sediment chemistry analyses are completed, it will be possible to see if the degraded sites have elevated levels of chemical contaminants, which may explain the toxicity results.

Completed chemical analyses and bioassay toxicity tests on 105 sediment samples collected from Biscayne Bay in 1995. In 1996,121 additional samples were collected. (Two of the nine sampling zones are in Subregion 8).

Completed a cooperative aerial survey with the Coast Guard 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 portion of Subregion 9 south of Haulover Inlet since 1992 and was extended north of Haulover Inlet during 1995-1996.

Documented existence of a resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Biscayne Bay through analysis of data collected since 1990 on dolphin photo identification. This data set will be important input to the analysis of stock structure that is being initiated for Atlantic Coast dolphins.

Habitat Restoration

Removed and replaced with rip-rap approximately 4200 ft. of seawall.

Eradication of Invasive Exotics

Approximately 6 acres of coastal strand/beach dune habitat was restored at Fort Pierce Inlet State Recreation Area by the removal of Australian pine and Brazilian pepper.

Completed the removal of spoil material and exotic plants in both the upland and wetland communities on Munyon Island.

Land Acquisition

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit approved the first expenditure under the Everglades Restoration provision of the 1996 Farm Bill - a $19 million grant to the SFWMD for acquisition of 2,200 acres along the eastern edge of the Everglades Protection Area. These lands will become part of the East Coast Buffer - Water Preserve Areas, a series of surface water areas which will be interconnected and managed as a system of marshlands and reservoirs being designed to: (1) control seepage losses from the Everglades; (2) capture, store, and clean up excess stormwater currently lost to tide; (3) provide a buffer between the urban area and the Everglades; (4) protect and conserve wetlands outside the Everglades; (5) protect and enhance water supply.

Acquired approximately 1,800 acres in the East Coast Buffer/Water Preserve Areas during 1996, bringing the total under public ownership to 14,000 acres.

C-7, 8. and 9 General Reevaluation Report

Completed development of a model and performed an evaluation of existing conditions for C-7.

Biscayne Bay

Quantified freshwater discharge for coastal hydraulic control structures bordering Biscayne Bay.

c. 1996 Initiatives

Sustainable Development

Began an interagency effort, known as "Eastward Ho!," to promote more sustainable urban development within and along the historic growth corridor in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties.

d. 1997 Goals

Homestead Air Force Base

Provide recommendations on the redevelopment of Homestead Air Force Base in a manner consistent with protection of the environmental values of South Dade, including Biscayne Bay.

Habitat Restoration

Remove the exotic and hardwood species which have invaded the pine rocklands of the Owaissa Bauer Rockland. This will allow for the resumption of a normal fire regiment creating conditions for the return of the open pine canopy and patchy understory of shrubs, palms and ground cover of herbs and grasses found in a healthy pine rockland.

Restore approximately 54 acres of mangroves and 5 acres of isolated freshwater wetlands in the Cape Florida State Recreation Area.

Restore approximately 11 acres of mangroves; 1.7 acres of maritime hammock; 56 a 4-acre protective berm; and a 3.7-acre buffer zone (archeological) in the MacArthur Beach State Park.

Remove approximately 425 large Australian pines from the John U. Lloyd State Recreation Area. This project will contribute significantly to the enhancement and restoration along 1,000 linear feet of the best beach dune community in Broward County.

Water Quality

Complete a study of the ground and surface water pollution problems associated with septic tank systems and stormwater runoff in Highland Village near Oleta River State Park. This study will address the most economical means of correcting the water pollution problems.

Ecologic Programs

Complete chemical contaminant analyses of sediments from each ecotoxicology sampling site in Biscayne Bay.

Complete Biscayne Bay toxicological bioassay.

C-7, 8. and 9 General Reevaluation Report

Gather geotechnical topographic data for C-8 and 9 and evaluate existing conditions.

Perform economic analysis for C-7 basin to determine extent and frequency of flood damages.

View of Coast and Highway A delicate balance is sought to provide an adequate supply of clean water for the expanding population and to protect wildlife habitat and natural hydrodynamics.

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