Recent studies and reports have concluded that the health of Biscayne Bay is at a tipping point. The ecosystem is threatened by nutrient pollution from storm-water runoff, sewage pipe breaks, septic tanks, fertilizers, plastic pollution and other contaminants.
The pollution is killing seagrass and coral and driving off fish.
The bay also is suffering from hyper-salinity due to a lack of freshwater. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported that the damage is so bad that it soon will be irreversible and it will be impossible to restore the bay to its original state.
Biscayne Bay is vital to our economy. Miami-Dade County’s annual GDP is over $100 billion, and a large part of it stems from real estate, trade, and tourism, all of which depend on a healthy environment. A study by the Downtown Development Authority reported the taxable value of the downtown’s property including the waterfront is $39 billion.
Trade and tourism produce an estimated $43 billion annually and over 23 million tourists visited the county last year. Hence, one of the key actions of the 100 Resilient Cities – Resilient 305 plan is to protect the health of Biscayne Bay and our waterways.
In 1974, the Florida Legislature passed the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Act. Later, the Miami-Dade County’s Biscayne Bay Management Plan was approved. And years later came the Biscayne Bay Partnership Initiative. These have been good faith attempts to protect the bay, but they have been either too slow or shelved. The difference this time is that we have no time; the situation is dire.
The county has created the Biscayne Bay Task Force it is our last shot.
The Task Force has been reviewing reports and studies related to all the issues that are impacting the bay. What we realize is that it is under assault from many sources.
These are serious and complex problems, most of which will require lots of money and a community-wide approach to restoration and recovery. We also recognize that we must quickly draft recommendations that will help stabilize the ecosystem in the short term and set a path toward comprehensive recovery and permanent oversight.
Because our environment is our economy.
Irela M. Bagué is the chair of the Miami-Dade County Biscayne Bay Task Force.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.