Water Reservation Adopted to Secure Water for Health of Biscayne Bay

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Date: June 21, 2013
Contact: Christiana Admiral, (305) 230-1147, x018
Contact: Mary Plumb, (954) 377-5905

The Department of Interior and Biscayne National Park are applauding the recent action of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board in voting to adopt the water reservation for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands (BBCW) Project, Phase 1, which benefits Biscayne National Park.  The SFWMD water reservation rule identifies and reserves water from consumptive use for the project and ensures that fresh water is available to provide the intended benefits to the natural system.

According to Shannon Estenoz, Director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives for the Department of Interior, "The Department thanks the District for moving us forward towards protecting vital fresh water flows to Biscayne National Park and Biscayne Bay."

The water reservation rule secures the long-term availability of water distributed by the BBCW Project for thousands of fish and wildlife species throughout the Biscayne Bay region and Biscayne National Park. According to Biscayne National Park Superintendent, Brian Carlstrom, "The water reservation for Biscayne Bay is a step in the right direction toward restoring the park's productive nursery habitats used by about 70 percent of the area's commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish species."

The District's action to approve the water reservation meets requirements in both state and federal law for the protection of water identified for the natural system as part of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) implementation, and is a necessary step to secure federal funding.

The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project is the only active Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) project to directly benefit Biscayne Bay and Biscayne National Park. The project intends to redistribute freshwater runoff from the watershed away from existing canal discharges, into the adjacent coastal wetlands of Biscayne Bay.

The water reservation marks the culmination of more than a decade of collaboration between the SFWMD and National Park Service (NPS) to identify and protect freshwater for Biscayne Bay. Ecological targets were established based on decades of salinity monitoring and a comprehensive evaluation of historic and current fresh water inputs.

"In order to 'turn on the faucet' and deliver water through the BBCW Project to the ecosystem, a source of fresh water is needed," explained Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom. "The NPS is excited with the progress shown by adoption of the water reservation and looks toward collaborating with SFWMD staff to identify additional freshwater to meet restoration goals."

The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project – Phase 1 will improve distribution of freshwater flows to southern Biscayne Bay, including Biscayne National Park. The CERP project will result in healthier coastal wetlands and a more natural overland flow of water that will mimic historical conditions. It will also help re-establish critical low-salinity habitat that is essential for a variety of estuarine plants and animals such as sea grasses, eastern oysters, blue crabs and spotted sea trout. Originally Biscayne Bay received enough freshwater for the coastal areas to be freshwater marshes and to have fresh water artesian springs in the Bay, which mariners used for drinking water. Adoption of water reservations is a milestone in Biscayne Bay restoration.

For further information, please contact Christiana Admiral, Biscayne National Park Chief of Interpretation, at (786) 335-3640 or Mary Plumb, Department of Interior, Public Affairs Officer, at (954) 377-5905.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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