On March 21, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Miami-Dade County, and others broke ground on the final component of the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands initiative. This project aims to rehydrate coastal wetlands, improve water levels and deliveries to Biscayne Bay, build our coastal resilience, recharge our drinking water aquifer, and restore habitat for the bay’s diverse fish and wildlife species.
Biscayne Bay is a shallow, estuarine lagoon running the length of Miami-Dade County that supports 500 fish species and hundreds of bird species, including 36 that are endangered or threatened. Historically, fresh water flowed over and through the Miami Rock Ridge and out to Biscayne Bay. Over time, this water flow has been interrupted and reduced. As a result, Biscayne Bay receives little fresh water during the dry season and too much fresh water during the wet season, altering the salinity regime of this once-thriving estuary and causing declining ecological conditions for the bay and Biscayne National Park.
Audubon’s science and policy teams have worked to restore freshwater flows to the wetlands along Biscayne Bay for more than three decades. Our research on indicator species, including the iconic Roseate Spoonbill, tells us whether water conditions are suitable for fish and wildlife. Through our water monitoring, we understand water pathways and the freshwater demands of the ecosystem, while applied science work informs policy efforts and results in good projects — like the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands.
The March groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction of the last phase of this initiative, the Cutler Flow-way Pump Station, which will increase freshwater deliveries to rehydrate coastal wetlands. Kelly Cox, Audubon Florida’s Director of Everglades Policy and co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, gave remarks during the groundbreaking celebration: “For years, our advocates, our agencies, our elected officials, and our scientists have called for change. And that’s exactly what this project aims to do,” Cox said. “It aims to provide needed change for Biscayne Bay, and this effort is not just important for birds and wildlife, but for those of us who live and work here.”
All aspects of the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project are slated for completion by 2025.
This article appeared as part of the Spring 2023 State of the Everglades Report. Read the entire report here.