Audubon Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Florida Bay,Water Issues



Audubon Advocates Keep Pressure on the Army Corps to Protect the Southern Everglades

posted on June 16, 2015 in Everglades,Florida Bay,Water Issues

spoonbill_bill_swindamanThree vital restoration projects in the Southern Everglades – Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, C-111 South Dade, and the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project – are nearly complete. How these projects are operated will determine how they impact the ecosystem. Operations that move freshwater to the right places at the right time of year will help revive Everglades National Park, improve conditions in Florida Bay, and bring back birds, fish, and other wildlife that depend on these special places.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a series of incremental tests. During these tests, freshwater will be moved through restoration projects and into the Everglades. Data will be collected to determine the final operations plan for the Southern Everglades. The goal of these projects are to restore the flow of water that will in turn restore habitats in the Southern Everglades and Florida Bay.

The first increment of testing will start this summer and will slightly increase water flowing into Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park. In order to satisfy the vocal agricultural community worried about the impacts of restoration on their land, this test will also allow some water to be diverted away from Taylor Slough and Florida Bay which will reduce ecological benefits in those areas.

Audubon will continue working with the agencies responsible for Everglades restoration to stress that restoration projects achieve the promised ecological benefits for birds and other wildlife.

Audubon Scientists Find Progress One Year After C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component Ribbon-Cutting

The C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component Great colonies of wading birds, including signature species like the Roseate Spoonbill, once congregated on the shores of Florida Bay. The ultimate measurement of restoration success is bringing those colonies back. Increasing freshwater flows to Taylor Slough in the Southern Everglades will restore critical foraging habitat and Florida’s birds will respond by building nests and hatching and fledging chicks.

The C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component is a major restoration project designed to improve freshwater flows to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. The project creates a nine mile hydraulic ridge designed to hold rain water and natural flows into Taylor Slough, a critical flow-path that carries water through the heart of Everglades National Park into Florida Bay. Water is then able to sheet-flow and filter into the ground, rehydrating this historic wetland habitat.

Now just one year after the ribbon-cutting of this important Everglades restoration project, Audubon Florida scientists are already documenting habitat improvements.

Roseate SpoonbillsThe C-111 Spreader Canal Project includes two components. The first phase, the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component (phase one) has been operating for over a year, and the C-111 Spreader Canal Eastern Component (phase two) is still in the planning phase and will be completed in the future.

In the first year of operation, the Western Component has already improved flow and salinity conditions, which have led to improvement in the health and quality of wetland habitats in Florida Bay. This project is the first major constructed operational component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP was approved by Congress in 2000 to reverse the ecological decline observed in the Everglades and Florida Bay.

For more information, please click here to download our latest Fact Sheet on this important Everglades project.

Urgent: Tell the SFWMD to Fund Critical Water Resources Programs

takeaction_floridabay_largeThis Thursday, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board will vote on their 2014 budget. After years of deep cuts, they are considering decreasing revenues even more.

The SFWMD is the state partner in Everglades restoration. It is also in charge of South Florida’s water resource projects, water conservation, and land stewardship. You can take action right now by emailing the governing board to urge them to protect Florida’s water resources by not decreasing revenues. See the email list below.

Over the past few years there have been significant cuts to water conservation programs, vegetation management programs that help bird habitat on Lake Okeechobee, and science and modeling programs for the Everglades and coastal ecosystems. Funding for climate change science and adaptation programs is slim to none.

While there has been some good funding for recent Everglades projects, restoring revenue would allow important projects like the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project Cutler Floway to move forward. This project, which will help restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay to improve estuarine habitats, is fully designed, and is currently sitting on the shelf waiting for funding.

lidaAudubon Florida Board member Lida Rodriguez Tasseff’s recent editorial in the Miami Herald puts the situation in perspective. She states:

Do we really want to force a public agency to choose between updating levees to hold back flood water or completing a restoration project that supports our future population’s water supply? Is it really a bright idea to significantly deplete funding water conservation programs and alternative water supply projects? SFWMD is even considering selling off lands acquired for conservation purposes to help fill in the budget gaps. They shouldn’t have to be in this position.

The ironic thing is that budget cuts are supposed to help property owners from paying more taxes. But instead, it exposes property owners to heightened risks from flooding, water shortages, and long-term loss of value. The difference in property tax for the average homeowner is minimal – less than the cost of a slice of pizza. That is a small price to pay for certainty in water management.

The Everglades needs your help. Let the Governing Board know that you want your water resources protected. Send your email right now:

 

May 17 Key Largo Gulf Consortium Meeting Wrap-Up

SpoonFlight_LarryFrogge

Audubon was well represented at the May 17 Florida’s Gulf Counties Consortium meeting in Key Largo, where the Consortium heard updates on the agreement with the Governor’s Office and the Gulf Council restoration plan.  Gov. Scott is expected to sign the agreement which will define the role of the Governor’s Office and state agencies in working with the Consortium to develop Florida’s Oil Spill Restoration Impact Allocation Plan. Also known as the State Expenditure Plan, the plan will determine how “Pot 3” RESTORE funds are spent. The State’s plan must be approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

pete_presentation_keylargoPete Frezza, a research manager at Audubon’s Everglades Science Center in Tavernier, gave an insightful presentation on some of the problems facing Florida Bay, an important habitat for Florida’s wildlife and the larger Gulf ecosystem. Click here to see a copy of Pete’s presentation.

The Consortium also established a committee of the 15 counties from Jefferson to Monroe County to provide input on U.S. Treasury options on how to distribute Pot 1 RESTORE funds among the 15 counties.  A similar committee for the eight counties from Escambia to Wakulla was set up earlier.

Consortium members were briefed on the Florida Keys marine environment and how much influence Keys fish populations and other Keys resources have on other areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Supervisor Connie Rockco, Harrison County, Missisippi Board of Supervisors, made a presentation and commented on how much coastal Mississippi has in common with coastal Florida.  She advocated for the formation of a Gulf state coastal consortium to exercise more influence with Congress on Gulf coastal issues.

All presentations made at the meeting are posted on the Florida Gulf Consortium web site.

Many of Florida’s Gulf coastal counties have formed advisory committees to help shape local priorities for Gulf restoration funds.  Your participation in these committee meetings is important to guide local restoration funds to critical Gulf environmental resources and wildlife.  If you have information on your local committee meetings, please email jwebber@audubon.org so that it can be included on Audubon’s RESTORE Calendar.

Big Day for Everglades as Tamiami Trail Dam is Removed

posted on May 16, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay

Everglades Sunset - Photo by MacStoneWater is flowing freely past the Tamiami Trail once again, the first time in 85 years it has done so. While traffic has been driving on the new elevated bridge over a mile long stretch of Tamiami Trail for over a month now, the removal of the dam began yesterday. Now focus shifts to ensure that phase II – a 5.5 mile stretch of bridge – becomes a reality. The Tamiami Trail bridging project has been an Audubon priority for decades.

The removal of the dam means more freshwater from the Everglades will reach Florida Bay – a delicate estuarine ecosystem that is dependent on the natural flow of Everglades water for balance in salinity and seasonal water level changes. Stay tuned to this website for more information from our Everglades Science Center in Tavernier who will be monitoring this area closely in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Truly this is a monumental day for Everglades advocates – thank you to everyone who worked so hard to for this day to happen.

For more information, please see coverage from Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times by clicking here.

Audubon Magazine: Roseate Spoonbills Send Warning Signs About the Florida Everglades

posted on May 15, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay,Wildlife

Don’t miss the lead article in the the May-June 2013 edition of Audubon Magazine:

Roseate spoonbills and other shorebirds hunt on the mud flats during low tidesOnce the spoonbills regained a toehold in Florida Bay, their numbers climbed steadily until 1979, when they peaked at roughly 1,260 nests. They then began a precipitous decline. Wetlands throughout the Keys were ditched and drained to create new housing developments offering residents both direct waterfront and road access, wiping out roughly 80 percent of the birds’ foraging grounds. “The Keys were covered in so much dust, it looked like a fog bank,” Lorenz recalls being told by an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scientist who was working in the area at the time.

The spoonbills responded to such unprecedented development by shifting to more northern nesting areas in Florida Bay. They might have hung on there, if not for the drastic changes in water management that followed, including upgrading the canal system to three times its former size and increasing the number of pump stations to support booming agriculture in southern Dade County.

Lorenz’s research helped reveal the extent to which the spoonbills’ needs were quickly becoming at odds with development and water management. For one, water depth plays an important role in spoonbill survival. When water levels drop very quickly, as they are supposed to do naturally in November and December, it signals to the spoonbills that it is time to start nesting. If all is well, 22 days after the birds lay their first egg the conditions will be ripe for foraging—fish will be concentrated in shallow waters, where spoonbill parents can quickly suck them up and return to the nest to feed their chicks.

 

Learn more about Roseate Spoonbills at RestoreFloridaBay.org.

Protect Florida Bay and Everglades National Park

posted on May 3, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay

takeaction_floridabay_largeMake your voice heard in support of Everglades National Park’s preferred management plan.

Everglades National Park is currently undertaking a large-scale update to their General Management Plan (GMP) that will provide broad guidance for management of the Park’s resources for at least the next 20 years. Audubon supports the National Park Service’s preferred plan because it strikes the right balance of protecting and improving conditions for birds and wildlife while also allowing for significant visitor access to continue.

Your voice is needed – take action to Protect Florida Bay and Everglades National Park by sending an email of support right now

seagrass_scarAudubon’s Everglades Scientists working in Florida Bay found that increasing boat traffic across shallow seagrass habitat contributed to a decline in wading bird nesting in Florida Bay. One of the GMP’s most important proposals is to designate a greater area as a “Poll and Troll” zone, where boats can enter using a push poll or a non-combustion trolling motor.

This will avoid scarring and killing sea grass beds that support fish and wildlife as well as minimizing disturbance to nesting, foraging, and roosting water bird species like the iconic Roseate Spoonbill.

You are strongly encouraged to edit and personalize the below message. Tell park administrators why protecting seagrass habitat and wading birds is important to youFor more information, please click here to visit the official Everglades National Park Draft Management Plan website.

Your comments are important, please share using the buttons below. If you would like to send your email using the National Park Service’s online web form, please click here to visit their website.

First Tamiami Trail Bridge Opens Today

posted on April 16, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay,Water Issues,Wildlife

TamiamiTrailBridge_Audubon_processTHANK YOU to all Audubon Advocates for helping to make one of our oldest Everglades priorities become a reality! The first Tamiami Trail bridge is NOW OPEN to traffic, so you can take a drive along US 41 and see the Everglades like never before. Have a friend take a picture of the bridge while your driving and post it on Facebook Page.

In this photo collage you can see the history of this project – from the original Tamiami Trail construction with water relentlessly rushing over the dike, to the modern construction process, to the eventual ecological results expected in the Southern Everglades and Florida Bay! THANK YOU EVERGLADES ADVOCATES! This is a great day for Florida’s iconic birds and wildlife!

For more information, please see our fact sheet:http://bit.ly/137Wsjy.

Photos by Miami HistoryJacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mac Stone Photography. Thank you!

Historic Milestone for the Everglades as First Tamiami Trail Bridge Opens

posted on March 22, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay,Water Issues,Wildlife

Salazar_TamiamiTrail_RibbonCutting_AudubonTuesday marked an historic milestone for Audubon and the Everglades as advocates and decision-makers assembled to celebrate the opening of the first bridge on Tamiami Trail. Raising Tamiami Trail to restore the natural flow of water has been one of Audubon’s top priorities for decades.

Although in the works for over 20 years, a compromise reached in 2008 allowed this project to move forward while planning for a more ambitious second phase. As the water starts to flow, scientists from Audubon’s Everglades Science Center will monitor the ecosystem changes and provide critical data about the project’s benefits.

TamiamiTrail_birds_celebrationThe Everglades Team will also strongly advocate for construction funding to begin the next phase of bridging that will raise an additional 5.5 miles and exponentially increase the overall ecological benefits while recharging groundwater levels and creating a barrier to salt water intrusion.

For more information on this critical Everglades project, please see coverage from The Miami Herald and WPLG Local 10 News.

Statement on New C-111 Spreader Canal Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

posted on January 11, 2013 in Everglades,Florida Bay

Statement from Megan Tinsely, Audubon Florida Everglades Policy Associate on the New C-111 Spreader Canal:

Today marks significant progress toward reversing ecological decline in the Southern Everglades. The Western component (first phase) of the C-111 Spreader Canal project is now complete and operational. Keeping more water in Taylor Slough for delivery to Florida Bay will re-hydrate wetlands suffering for decades from decreased water flows, helping to increase productivity and thus populations of wading birds like Roseate Spoonbills, game fish, and crocodiles.

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