Florida: Culverts and subdivisions are killing mangrove forests in the Marco islands area

Marco Island’s fringe and the surrounding Ten Thousand Islands are
mostly made up of mangrove trees. Mangroves are a Florida native plant
that thrives in salty water. They are able to separate the salt from
the water and use the fresh water to survive. After spending several
months cleaning the woods of Key Marco of the non-native Brazilian
pepper and vines, which create false canopies and kill trees and
shrubs beneath them, an extremely large area of dying mangroves
between Marco Island south to Goodland was discovered.

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Tina Ottman, the Research Coordinator for Rookery Bay reported a culvert that runs under State Road 92, known as San Marco Road, meant to allow tidalflow to continue into this area. This culvert has collapsed and become
clogged with debris.The Department of Environmental Protection has never had the money to study and repair this problem. There are people working on grants to fund the needed studies to determine if this is the only problem or one of many.

It is possible that one or all of the developments in the
area could have also disturbed the tidal flows into the dying areas.
Key Marco, Vintage Bay, Stevens Landing could all have contributed to
the problem. The federal government is giving DEP millions of dollars
in stimulus monies for “shovel ready” environmental projects. Because
of the need for further engineering studies, this problem would not be
considered, “shovel ready.”

However, Collier County Commissioners have been allocated $575,000, for hiring consultants who will create a complete model to write plans for watershed management. This plan would study the way water flows across land, into canals and into the Gulf of Mexico.

While this study is probably more about urban flooding than tidal flows into area mangroves, perhaps the engineers could look into the tidal flow problem as part of this project.

Donna Fiala, our representative on the commission board, is aware of the issue and is looking into whether this could be considered to help make the problem a shovel ready project.

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