Solutions for Biscayne Bay: Habitat Protection
Miami-Dade County is blessed with incredible aquatic habitats and ecosystems–coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests–that offer a wide range of benefits to the economy, to our climate change resilience, and for our cultural heritage.
- The Florida Reef Tract is the only nearshore coral reef in the continental United States and the third largest barrier reef in the world. Healthy reefs have the potential to reduce wave energy by over 90%, imparting significant protection resilience benefits for coastal communities by slowing dangerous storm surge and protecting our beaches from erosion – thereby reducing perpetual beach renourishment. Distressingly, corals are being bombarded by multiple threats: warming ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, disease, and by coastal construction. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration released a report in August 2023 confirming that at least 278 acres of reef were unlawfully impacted during Phase III PortMiami expansion dredging.
- Seagrass beds account for 10 percent of the ocean's capacity to store carbon. They host a wide variety of life important to However, over 90 percent of seagrass beds have died in parts of Northern Biscayne Bay due to nonpoint source pollution. The annual Biscayne Bay Report Card continues to show fair to poor condition of the bay in most locations.
- In Florida, roughly 469,000 acres of mangrove forests serve as the ultimate multitaskers. In addition to protecting coastal areas of Florida from waves by as much as 20 percent, mangroves also aid in nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, and sediment retention, and provide valuable habitats for marine life. Yet un urban Miami-Dade, few shorelines at both public and private properties remain in their native, forested state. The proliferation of concrete seawalls has decimated habitat, contributed to water quality impairments, and resulted in a choppier, grittier bay. As seas rise, existing mangroves will need room to migrate.
- Freshwater wetlands are invaluable ecosystems: they stock excess floodwaters, recharge our drinking water aquifer, allow pollutants to settle and for plants to uptake excess nutrients, are great sinks for carbon, and support a myriad of biodiversity. Yet for much of Florida’s history, wetlands have been viewed as merely swamps and otherwise valueless tracts of land. With drainage and development of these areas, communities have suffered the consequences of building in low-lying, flood-prone areas outside the UDB.
These important ecosystems face critical threats due to impaired water quality, irresponsible development, and climate change. These threats are impacting the community and environment's ability to be resilient and absorb the impacts of climate change, as well as the ability of our culture and way of life to continue to thrive.
- Utilize natural and nature-based features to enhance urban green infrastructure and coastal resiliency.
- Improve water quality to allow the recovery of seagrasses
- Restore and protect Miami's coral reefs
- Improve water quality and decrease salinity in the Bay and its tributary waterways to bring back seagrass and oyster beds.
- Incentivize responsible development inside the County's Urban Development Boundary (UDB) and prevent the expansion of the UDB.
- Acquire and designate as perpetual easement lands outside the UDB to remain natural buffers to Everglades and Biscayne Bay.
- Ensure that major ecosystem restoration projects (CERP and BBSEER) goals are met and projects funded and carried out
- Ensure that Corps Civil Works and South Florida Water Management District projects are not contrary to habitat protection and instead prominently incorporate natural and nature-based features to achieve project objectives.
- Challenge the EPA and the State of Florida on their Assumption of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
- Maintain Urban Development Boundary Line to allow for flood control, drinking water protection, and everglades restoration
- Work with state legislators to pass a buffer bill around Everglades National Park, prohibiting development within at least 10 miles of the park’s boundaries.
- Update and address living shoreline regulations to promote the use of living shorelines (Biscayne Bay Task Force Recommendation 4A)
- Conduct public education on the economic, social, and environmental value of nature and nature-based features. (Biscayne Bay Task Force Recommendation 4B, 5A, 6A-6I)
- Fully mitigate for the damage caused by the PortMiami dredging to Miami's corals
- Dredge in the PortMiami shipping channel only after fully mitigating for corals impacted during Phase III expansion dredging. Implement best management practices and reduce the scope of port expansion to the minimum necessary after investigating whether the port actually needs to be expanded.
- Increase fines for illegal ecosystem damage, including dumping, above and beyond county floor for violations.
- Fully fund the Environmentally Endangered Lands program, to include purchase of all land identified for acquisition and allocation for perpetual maintenance of these lands.
The National Wildlife Federation – Clean Water State Revolving Fund: The largest source of federal funding for clean water infrastructure projects, including green infrastructure. This federal-state partnership provides grants to states, and states use this funding to make low-interest loans to communities for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects.