The future of Florida’s coastal communities is at risk due to the threat of rising seas. Like most cities built alongside bodies of water, Miami is experiencing many of the problems caused by climate change. However, a restoration project in southern Miami-Dade County is suggesting a partial solution while also improving the natural landscape.
The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands (BBCW) project is a restoration initiative sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District. Its purpose is to restore vital natural habitats along the coast and rehydrate freshwater and saltwater wetlands by diverting the flow of water in the bay. Phase 1 of the project has been completed and incorporates three sites: the Deering Estate, the Cutler Wetlands and the L-31E Flow-way.
So far, there has been an improvement in the coastal ecosystems and wildlife.
Bahram Charkhian, project manager for the BBCW, said the quantity of grasses has grown since the project began strategically pumping water. “We are able to divert the water in the form of sheet flow right now, and we’ve improved the condition in the tidal wetlands and near the shore of Biscayne Bay.”
The bay is home to over 500 species of fish and marine organisms. Over time, the coastal habitats have decreased due to urbanization and deforestation. The BBCW project will help restore the bay’s natural ecosystems and fix some of the damage done over time.
In terms of habitat restoration, the project will benefit 160 acres of freshwater wetland and increase saltwater wetland function. It will also increase the amount of aquatic vegetation, wetland vegetation and sea grasses, which are important to fish and other wildlife. These ecosystems are home to both commercially and ecologically important estuarine species such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters.
Jayantha Obeysekera, director of the Sea Level Rise Center at Florida International University, explained how the BBCW project will help against flooding caused by climate change.
“This fresh water coming into the wetlands will help mitigate the intrusion of saltwater and … help mitigate the impact of storm surges and sea level rise.”
The success of this project will pave the way for future initiatives that protect Florida from the impacts of rising seas. Volunteer opportunities are available for those who want to lend a hand or learn more about the project.
You can visit the US Army Corp of Engineers Jacksonville District website for more information.