Feasibility Study:
Florida Bay / Florida Keys Feasibility Study

Florida Bay is located at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and covers about 850 square miles, including 700 square miles within Everglades National Park.

Study Details

Florida Bay  MapFlorida Bay is located at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and covers about 850 square miles, including 700 square miles within Everglades National Park. The bay is relatively shallow, as average depths are less than three feet. The Florida mainland is located to the north and the Florida Keys lie to the southeast. Sheetflow across marl prairies of the southern Everglades and numerous creeks fed by Taylor Slough and the C-111 canal provide fresh surface water inflows into the Bay and groundwater recharge. Surface water from the Shark River Slough system flows into Whitewater Bay and may also provide groundwater recharge for central and western Florida Bay.

At least 22 commercially and/or recreationally important aquatic species are known to use Florida Bay as a nursery ground. A guideboat industry in the Florida Keys operates within Florida Bay. Target species of this industry include snook, tarpon, permit, bonefish, spotted seatrout, and mangrove snapper. The Bay is also a nursery for young spiny lobsters and several species of snappers, grunts, and sparids. Florida Bay and nearby coastal embayments are the principal nursery habitat for pink shrimp which is the basis of a multimillion dollar fishery in the Tortugas. Pink shrimp are an important species commercially and form a prey base for higher trophic level organisms.

Florida Bay Photograph During the summer of 1987, approximately 100,000 acres of seagrass (primarily Thallassium testudinum) "died off" in western Florida Bay. This die off was followed by phytoplankton blooms and sponge die-offs. Conditions within Florida Bay have continued to visibly decline since 1987, including losses of seagrass habitat; diminished water clarity; micro-algal blooms of increasing intensity and duration; and population reductions in economically significant species such as pink shrimp, sponges, lobster, and recreational gamefish.  In addition to these problems, populations of wading birds, forage fish, and juveniles of game fish species have been reduced. Accounts by longtime residents and fishermen suggest that populations of all the living resources in and around the estuarine waters of South Florida were more abundant and diverse in years past than they are today, although the system has probably always experienced wide fluctuations in productivity.

florida bay photographScientists disagree about the basic causes of these problems within Florida Bay. Most do agree, however, that these incidents are probably symptomatic of other more basic problems occurring within the Bay. Scientists and engineers from state and federal agencies as well as the academic community are working together for the purpose of identifying the problems and potential corrective measures to solve or at least minimize the causes of Florida Bay's problems.

The project authorization for the C&SF Project Comprehensive Review Study also directs the Corps the develop a hydrodynamic model for Florida Bay. Other activities that the Corps is also involved with include the development of data in support of understanding the effect of the C&SF Flood Control Project on historic and current pathways and volumes of freshwater inflows into Florida Bay, the effect of freshwater inflows on salinity, and determining the biological responses to changes in salinity gradients and salinity fluctuations.

The Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers is participating in modeling efforts for Florida Bay. A hydrodynamic model of Florida Bay is currently being developed to simulate water movement patterns in the Bay. Among other things, the model will support making salinity predictions from varying temporal and spatial freshwater inflows and, in the future, will be linked with water quality and ecological models. For example, the model will accept output from surface and groundwater hydrologic models to predict the impacts that C&SF Project restoration alternatives will have on Florida Bay. The model will use a variable-size, finite element grid to allow an increased definition in areas of high gradients and the use of larger grids in areas with nearly uniform bathymetry and mixing. The wetting and drying of cells will be allowed to model the water surface fluctuations due to tidal changes.

Poster: Overview of Florida Bay and Florida Keys Feasibility Study

animated posterThrough this poster you can learn about the Florida Bay and Florida Keys Feasibility Study, including the watershed, its water circulation, water interaction with the environment and sub-environments, and the goal and objectives of the study. Also, the poster will let you know how you can find out more about the restoration study.


Study Contacts:

Laura Mahoney
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Dewey Worth
South Florida Water Management District

Michael Collis
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Related Links & Study Documents: