Managing South Florida Water Flows

Showing just how interconnected our environment can be, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District have taken steps recently to manage the flow of freshwater in deep south Florida. So what does that have to do with saltwater fly fishing? The measures offer some hope in correcting problems plaguing Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay and the Fort Myers area fisheries.

The natural flow of water in the region from Lake Okeechobee was down the peninsula and eventually into Florida Bay via the Everglades. But, beginning in 1928 with the completion of the Tamiami Trail, much of that flow was diverted east toward Miami or west to Fort Myers. This resulted in algae blooms and other environmental problems leading to loss of seagrasses and declines of game fish species.

Beginning in 2005, the SFWMD began a project to build bridges on the Tamiami Trail to restore the water flow southward. Due to funding delays, only one mile of the proposed 11 miles of spans was completed. However, a grant of $180 million in late 2016 now has the project going again with the construction of 3.6 more miles of bridges.

Additionally, modifications are being made to canals and levees to redirect the freshwater to the south. That will help to revitalize Florida Bay while cutting down on the nutrient loaded waters going into Biscayne Bay or down the Caloosahatchee River to Fort Myers. Both situations are is

Additionally, the Corps of Engineers has awarded more than $770,000 to begin construction of culverts along the L-31E Flow Way that carries water to Biscayne Bay. These culverts will allow water to enter wetlands along the canal, rather than funneling it all directly to the bay.

Having less water entering the bay from the canal is expected to benefit the wetlands, but also help reestablish oyster and seagrass beds in Biscayne Bay. Again, inshore saltwater game fish will benefit as well.

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