Biscayne Bay advisory board ready to get feet wet
A 21-member Biscayne Watershed Management Task Force is assembling its members for what is to be a permanent organization in charge of addressing the recovery of water quality in Biscayne Bay and future management of the watershed.
The county so far has received nine nominations and the Chief Bay Officer, Irela Bague, is expecting that by October her office can present to commissioners the resolution with the nominees and by November the Advisory Board can hold their its meeting.
The advisory board was created in July by a unanimously adopted resolution sponsored by Rebeca Sosa. It is the result of one of the 60-plus recommendations the previous Biscayne Bay Task Force made in 2020. Another result of the recommendations was the creation of the Chief Bay Officer position with Ms. Bague appointed as the first officer in January.
“The creation of the Biscayne Bay Watershed Management Advisory Board is a big step forward in our defense of one of our community’s most wonderful natural resources,” said Commissioner Sosa. A previous effort in the county dates back to 1981, when commissioners created a Biscayne Bay Management Plan with recommendations to improve and maintain the bay.
At the first meeting of the newly created advisory board, Ms. Bague – whose office would provide support – plans to walk the members through the state of the bay, pinpoint the most vulnerable areas, talk about the actions taken so far, and open a discussion to develop a plan of the work ahead.
“What I’m hoping for is setting the stage for the long-term management and recovery of Biscayne Bay,” Ms. Bague said. The board would have to direct its efforts to accomplish the recommendations of the previous task force outlined in seven pillars: water quality, governance, infrastructure, watershed habitat restoration and natural infrastructure, marine debris, education outreach, and funding.
Since the appointment of Ms. Bague, efforts achieved as part of the recommendations of the previous task force include “one of the strongest fertilizer ordinances in the state [adopted in April 2021].”
“We’ve also intruded into cost-share agreements with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to address some of the areas that we know are highly polluted, like the Little River area,” Ms. Bague said. “We’re moving forward with septic to sewer conversions, also with some stormwater innovation and approaches to dealing with how water moves through the system and into the bay.”
Ms. Bague gave assurances that her office is working together with the Department of Environmental Resources Management, as well as Miami-Dade Water and Sewer. “There’s a lot of things that have happened even before this board has met so we want to get everybody up to speed since there’s a lot of more work that needs to be done,” she said.
The 21 members are to be nominated and formed by a variety of organizations including county commissioners, local universities’ representatives, the Biscayne National Park, the Miami Marine Council, the Miccosukee Tribe, the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition, the Florida Engineering Society and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, among others.
Members of the newly created board are to serve a four-year term until a successor is appointed, according to the ordinance. Responsibilities include:
■Develop recommendations to the mayor and commissioners for a detailed Watershed Restoration Plan.
■Propose improvements to infrastructure and operations which may impact or otherwise be related to Biscayne Bay.
■Make recommendations related to revisions to county regulations with impact to Biscayne Bay.
■Recommend public information campaigns and education; restoration projects; and water quality monitoring and targets.
“Something very big on my agenda is helping educate the public around how important and what a vital asset Biscayne Bay is,” Ms. Bague said. Her office is currently working on a multi-lingual countywide educational campaign to raise awareness about Biscayne Bay, according to the information provided by her staff.
“All levels of government and our community are behind the efforts that we’re taking to really move forward on the recovery of Biscayne Bay,” Ms. Bague said. “I’ve been working on big issues for over 20 years and it’s never seen so much support and problem-solving.”
Other efforts coming from the Chief Bay Officer include creating a Biscayne Bay Recovery Fund at the Miami Foundation and a Protect Biscayne Bay Specialty License Plate with pre-sales scheduled for this fall.
Just last week the Water and Sewer Department received approval for $211 million to be used as part of the Capital Improvement Program, according to a press note from the department. The five capital improvement projects approved so far by commissioners include:
■Installation of a 36-inch water main on Northwest 106th Street between Northwest 107th Avenue and South River Drive at an estimated cost of $8 million.
■Eight separate sub-projects will be undertaken at the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant to increase treatment capacity at the plant with an estimated cost of $107.6 million.
■A 5-year, $6.6 million contract to provide hydrogeologic and engineering services for comprehensive water resource projects, which include injection, production, monitoring wells and aquifer storage and recovery wells.
■A 5-year, $11 million professional service agreement that provides for a consultant to assist the department as the Professional Geologist Team during the construction and certification of five new injection and two monitoring wells at the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant.
■A $77.7 million project to construct five new injection wells and two monitoring wells at the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant.