Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Waterway Impairment: A 30,000 Foot View

After reading Andrew Tyler’s Water Quality article, I thought I’d share my thoughts based on 20 years on island experience and some pre-2000 historical perspective. For starters, some serious mistakes were made in the Orlando area in the 50s – 60s changing the natural water flow from S-SW down the peninsula to an E-W flow. The thought was, “Get the water out to the Gulf and Atlantic quickly.” The Feds realized their mistake and initiated the building of manmade locks and canal systems to restore the natural water flow to S-SW down the peninsula. The result, Lake Okeechobee has become a big throttling mechanism, collecting fertilizer enriched waters, most of which are being directed S-SW to the gulf. The Feds are continually fine-tuning the redirection of waters draining from Okeechobee further south.

Fast forward to 2010-20. Nutrient-rich (agriculturally enhanced) waters are finding their way into the Marco River via Rookery Bay and Henderson Creek and subsequently into our tidal canal system—but this is not the only “offender.” After we completed the STRP, “cleaned up our canal at great cost to our residents,” the city simultaneously initiated a new method of Storm Water Control. I call it the “Conveyance Method.” It involved installing large pipes and drains in our swales to suck the rainwater off our roads and lawns directly to outfalls into our canals, defeating the natural ability of our swales to filter out chemical nutrients by a method known as “Percolation via slow sand filtering.” This switch from Percolation to Conveyance occurred from 2000 to present and defeats the best practices that were working.

The best way forward:

  1. Restore the swales to their original purposes—Green Space and Rainwater Percolation.
  2. Allow the Water consultant to complete his work identifying point sources of waterway pollution and make his recommendations.
  3. Minimize any future use of the conveyance method which seems to be a root cause, exacerbating our waterway system impairment.
  4. Educate residents and landscape workers.

Joe Rola
Marco Island, FL

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