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The Grove's Top Environmental Problem

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#1 dinnerkeyadmin



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Posted 21 August 2003 - 09:14 AM

There are several street-water runoff vents in the Grove - the most notorious one emptying into the Bay directly beneath the dinghy dock. Outfalls like these have been clearly identified by the State of Florida as the number one source of pollution in Biscayne Bay.

Seagrass is always raised as a big concern - and it's a legitimate one. The grass is a vital part of the Bay's eco-system. However, the single greatest threat to the grass and other elements of that eco-system is the oil, chemical waste and animal effluence that regularly flows from the storm drains. Add agricultural runoff from Homestead and heated water from Turkey Point and there's trouble right here in River City. The toxic silt from the 27th Avenue drain has eliminated all life from the Coconut Grove Sailing Club mooring basin and provided sufficient sediment so that parts of the dinghy dock are high and dry at low tide.

The Directors of the Dinner Key Anchorage Association met with professors from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine Sciences to find out what damage anchor chains and other boating activities might actually be doing. The consensus was that live-aboard boating was not a major threat to seagrass.

As boaters, we all need to do our part to minimize impact. At the same time, I believe there has to be some allowable level. Let's not forget that City Hall stands on the site of a former hardwood hammock. If you own a house in Miami, you're probably displacing the pines, palmettos, panthers and indians who once occupied this land. There will always be a tragic aspect when nature is replaced by asphalt, concrete and manicured mondo-grass, but I can confidently state that boaters require less encroachment on natural resources than any other group. Environmental justifications for moorings or other boater-control devices are patently absurd.

More importantly, diverting the street runoff through some sort of filtering facility will amount to a public works project of epic proportions. It will cost immense amounts of money and will require major construction of pipelines. I don't know what facilities may exist or not to properly treat this muck when it reaches its destination. This is the real solution and it's unfortunately the one nobody wants to talk about.

I think that every one of the diverse groups on the Bay would stand united in expressing an interest in a cleaner environment. Anyone who has cruised the Bahamas knows what an algae-pit we have by comparison. If you read "The Commodore's Story" or talk to the Old-timers, they'll tell you about the same clear, blue waters in Biscayne Bay. I'd love to see that happen again one day.

I'm not against managing the way boaters use our resources and I'm not claiming that there aren't a few bad apples who discharge oil and other trash into the water. I'm not against moorings as long as they're in the right locations for the right reasons. However, if our Environmental Agencies aren't empowered to deal with priority problems in priority fashion, they're left with little to do with their expertise but attack lesser matters. Offsetting the destruction of mangrove habitats with mitigation penalties is important and not to be trivialized, but without a direct assault on the runoff problem, the Bay will continue to deteriorate.

As a community, we need to work with our agencies (DERM, DEP, Army Corps of Engineers) to find out where to apply pressure so they can be empowered to address this issue. Let's get focussed on solving the real problems.