The Deering Estate Flow-way Project, which is Phase 1 of the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project, likely will be completed this fall, perhaps as early as October, according to Ed Hernandez, director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Hernandez addressed members of the Economic Development Council (EDC) on Tuesday, Mar. 15.
The Flow-way project, which costs roughly $4.5 to $5 million, is designed to restore water to historic Cutler Creek, result in a more natural overland flow of water and redistribute excess freshwater runoff.
“This will help do a lot of good for that area,” Hernandez said. “The district was created as a result of two major hurricane events, one in 1926 and one in 1947. Then the Army Corps of Engineers began to channelize Florida all the way from Orlando down to the Dade/Keys line.”
Hernandez explained that the purpose was to provide flood protection for around 2.2 million people, and allow for farming and growth.
“They did it right, in the sense that it worked really well,” Hernandez said. “It had some unintended consequences. The wisdom at the time didn’t anticipate some of the ecological things that have occurred, so what we’re trying to do is restore and fix some of those things.
“We had shut down the Everglades by 40 percent. We shut that natural sheet flow of water, which is our filter for potable water, down by 40 percent,” he added.
Hernandez said that the Coastal Wetlands projects are designed to correct some of the problems brought about by development and growth in South Florida.
Details of the Deering Estate Flow-way Project include a 520-linear-foot spur canal extension, a 100 cubic feet per second pump station with submersible pumps, 540 linear feet of 60-inch reinforced discharge piping, a spreader box, which is a 42 feet by eight feet cast-in-place structure already completed and a three-acre educational wetlands component.
Special care has gone into the design of the pump station structure so that it will blend in with the surrounding community.
“We want this to be an asset, not an eyesore,” Hernandez said. “The building that houses it will look as non-institutional as possible.”
Resident Peter England asked about the purpose of the spreader box.
“The spreader box is a kind of holding tank,” Hernandez said. “It helps create a more natural flow of water.”
Several other residents asked if the improved wetland areas might result in more mosquitoes, and if there was any plan to deal with that.
“There’s not going to be stagnant water there,” Hernandez answered. “There are times when it will flow and times when it won’t.”
He also explained that the area in question is on the Deering Estate property, and that they can’t go in there for mosquito control. And anyway, the idea is to restore the natural ecosystem.
Phase 2, intended for later work in the Cutler area near SW 184th Street, is similar to the Deering Flow-way but is estimated to cost around $18 million.
For more information, visit the SFWMD website at www.sfwmd.gov/.