In South Florida, we are either too wet or too dry. This year we’ve experienced an unusually wet winter which has wreaked havoc on the entire Everglades system. It has been a challenge for water managers to balance the needs of the natural system with flood control. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was passed 16 years ago to address this.
Since then, the state and federal governments have been slow to show progress. In addition to the critical problems of the northern part of the Everglades ecosystem and the releases from Lake Okeechobee into the eastern and western estuaries, we need to remember that Biscayne Bay is in serious decline as well.
The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands (BBCW) project is intended to restore natural coastal wetlands habitat by redistributing freshwater flows in Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park. BBCW will provide increased water storage in wetlands east of the coastal ridge to protect against saltwater intrusion and will thereby increase resiliency against sea level rise.
During my tenure as a Governing Board member of the South Florida Water Management District I highly encouraged the agency to begin the first Phase of BBCW, which has not been completed.To fully restore Biscayne’s coastal wetlands, habitats, and nearshore fisheries, we need to move forward with the second phase planning.
Miami-Dade is the only county in the nation that is home to two national parks and is a major contributor of the tax funding that is ultimately used for the restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem. Biscayne Bay is critical to the ecological and economic viability of Miami-Dade and, therefore, should be as equally important as other estuaries in the Everglades system.
Biscayne Bay cannot afford to wait and neither can Miami-Dade.
Irela M. Bagué, former governing board member, South Florida Water
Management District, Miami