Ileana Garcia works to secure additional funds to improve the Biscayne Bay spoil islands
It’s no secret that Biscayne Bay is in trouble, and Sen. Ileana Garcia now works with Miami-Dade County Chief Bay Officer Iréla Bagué to address a problem that has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: the deterioration of state-owned debris islands in the bay.
The remains of the dredging of the bay, spoil the islands are small man-made land masses in the bay. Many operate today as miniature beaches and parks with sands, mangroves and sea grapes, among other native flora, attracting boaters, jet skiers and other water fun enthusiasts, as well as an overflow of garbage and debris.
The short-term solution to the island waste problem envisioned months ago by Bagué and the city of Miami, one of the Miami-Dade municipalities to which the spoil islands were ceded, was to double the number of pickups. weekly waste.
But that is still not enough, and it does nothing to prevent island erosion and physical damage from illegally stranded and moored ships.
Much more work needs to be done – and funded – said Eduardo Tambourrel, Garcia’s legislative assistant, who confirmed that the Republican senator is trying to secure additional funds to maintain and improve the islands.
“The municipalities that run the islands need more funding,” he told Florida Politics. “One of the things the senator does is see how she can facilitate help with funding the organizational aspects. “
In mid-August, Garcia participated in a workshop hosted by Bagué to review spoil island contracts in Miami and other cities. Much of the workshop focused on tackling charter vessels and illegal delivery operations.
“Vessels illegally stranded or tied to trees contribute to erosion and physical damage on the Biscayne Bay spoil islands,” Garcia said in a written statement. “We must do everything possible to protect and preserve these tranquil islands which offer our residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy Florida’s unique natural resources, far from the hustle and bustle of Miami’s vibrant urban environment.”
To that end, Bagué said, locals and visitors must do their part to maintain the islands and stop “illegal activities, overuse, irresponsible behavior and a blatant disregard for nature and our unique wildlife.”
“We all need to take responsibility and treat Biscayne Bay and these spoiled islands the same way we would our backyard,” she said in a statement, adding that the county was working with Garcia, law enforcement and local governments to strengthen enforcement and ban certain uses. on the islands. “For decades, Miami-Dade County has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to restore these natural areas and pays weekly to remove the garbage and debris left behind.”
Biscayne Bay faces a myriad of other issues, including herbarium dieback, record number of manatee deaths this year and repeated, devastating the fish kill in the bay caused by extremely fluctuating temperatures and algae blooms.
There is also the increased toxification of the berry due to numerous waste spills, leaky septic tanks – a multibillion dollar problem for Miami-Dade County – and stormwater runoff flooding the bay with fertilizers, plastics and other pollutants. The lack of fresh water also causes the stream to suffer from “hyper salinity,” Bagué wrote in a nearly three-year-old child. Miami Herald Editorial.
In recent years, Garcia’s office said, the Florida Senate has made “unprecedented investments” in Florida’s natural resources, including Biscayne Bay.
This included legislation in april, which Garcia championed, to establish a nine-member Biscayne Bay Commission to oversee public projects and bay rehabilitation.
In the 2021 legislative session, Garica secured $ 36 million to coastal resilience and Biscayne Bay – $ 20 million for bay restoration and preservation projects and $ 16 million in resilience grants for South Florida.
She is now helping Miami establish a low-speed minimum wake zone near the Miami Marine Stadium, increasing the police presence on the Miami River to enforce existing speed zones, and working to help law enforcement obtain additional resources to enhance their efforts.
Scars from boat propellers are a “major threat” to seagrass beds, causing permanent scarring in some cases and destruction in the worst, according to the report. Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“We lost a lot of seagrass in the bay,” Tamborrel said.
Boat collisions also account for up to 25% of reported manatee fatalities, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission find. And when peaceful sea creatures don’t die from a collision, they can still experience sharp, blunt force trauma with lifelong effects.
In a 10-year study, only 4% of manatees Fish and Wildlife Research Institute encountered were without scars related to the boats.
“It seems extremely rare that an adult manatee is not struck more than once in its lifetime,” the organization said. “(Manatees) are subjected to more sublethal collisions with boats than any other marine mammal studied and this underscores the need for continued long-term vigilance in conservation actions in Florida.”