Experts say it will improve water flow to Florida Bay
South Florida Water Management District construction crews completed work on a key component of the plan to deliver more fresh, clean water to the ailing Florida Bay this week.
Officials said the plan will double the flow of water into the headwaters of Taylor Slough, which connects to the bay. This means on average as much as 6.5 billion gallons more freshwater per year will reach the bay to help restore seagrass that succumbed to the drought of summer 2015.
Using a hydraulic ram, crews removed a portion of the S-327 Weir (a long, low dam where water can flow over the top when levels are high). The weir is located in Miami-Dade County, west of Homestead, so that more freshwater can flow into Taylor Slough in Everglades National Park, and ultimately to Florida Bay.
The work entailed degrading 250 feet of the 1,900-foot weir by excavating 170 cubic yards of reinforced concrete and 850 cubic yards of limestone fill. This limestone will be used to build plugs in the L-31 West Canal which is another component of the plan to help Florida Bay.
SFWMD’s Susan Gray, bureau chief of applied sciences, explains the unique estuarine Florida Bay ecosystem and why salinity levels can spike.
“Florida Bay is a series of small ‘embayments’ and these mud banks and enclosed areas make the situation more important,” she said. “There’s not a lot of exchange between the various areas of the bay.”
She said without rainfall, the water in the sub-basins won’t be replaced for as long as a year.
“Getting the rainfall and directing more waters towards the headwater of Taylor Slough helps bring more water to the system, helps buffer it, and prevent the super high salinity that we are seeing.”
According to SFWMD officials, all of the proposed improvements in the Florida Bay plan will cost the agency less than $3.3 million and could be completed before the start of the next dry season in November if the Corps approves the necessary permits quickly.