UPDATED Dec. 13, 2022
For years, developers built too close to the Everglades, harming habitat but also putting communities at risk for perennial flooding problems. Located in western Miami-Dade County on the east side of Everglades National Park, a low-lying residential community called the 8.5 Square Mile Area (8.5 SMA) has been plagued by such flooding for decades.
One of the primary goals of restoring the Everglades is to send more fresh water south, eventually to Florida Bay, mimicking the original path of water as much as possible. This will lead to recharged aquifers, the return of more wetland species, and a revived ecosystem. The 8.5 SMA has been a barrier to moving this water to the tip of Florida; because of its geographic footprint within Everglades National Park, it lacks flood control, thus farms and homes are continually experiencing high water. For many years, the community of government entities and affected stakeholders have tried to come up with a solution, including attempts to buy out landowners, to no avail. They ultimately agreed on an underground seepage barrier, and the next phase of the project is about to come to life!
In a collaboration between the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers, 4.9 miles of new seepage wall — the Central Everglades Planning Project New Water Seepage Barrier — will be built as a northern extension to the 2.3-mile curtain wall adjacent to the 8.5 SMA that broke ground last year. Rainfall events have proven that the first section of the wall effectively reduces flooding, but the extension will be necessary to ensure flood protection from restoration efforts that will eventually bring even more water to an Everglades that desperately needs it.
“Audubon is excited to see the approval of this seepage wall expansion on the eastern edge of Everglades National Park — it’s a long-awaited solution to a complex problem that has faced many water management district governing boards. We have needed a solution to protect these communities from flooding while supporting increased water flow south, enabling Everglades restoration to proceed. We are hopeful this underground barrier will mitigate flood impacts while keeping fresh water where it is needed most, in the Everglades, destined for Florida Bay.” — Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida
The Army Corps completed their comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Assessment in September and broke ground in December 2022. The project is anticipated to take two years to complete.
Article originally appeared in Audubon Florida's Fall Naturalist magazine.