Tag Archives: C-111

Jumping Around the Frog Pond

Today we will be jumping around the Frog Pond

On April 29, 2021, I took a tour, with SFWMD staff, led by LeRoy Rodgers, Section Leader, Vegetative Management, 21 years; Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist, 7 years; and Brenda Mills, Principal Project Manger, Everglades Restoration, 23 years. Serious experience! The goal was to tour and learn about Frog Pond restoration, the C-111 project sites, and the 8.5 Square Mile Area. So what is the Frog Pond anyway? There’s no easy explanation, but I’ll try. The Frog Pond can best described as the “end of the road or the beginning of the road,” Ingram Highway that is. The end of the road for Florida City and the beginning of the road for Everglades National Park. Looking at the map provided by the SFWMD, one can see that the Frog Pond is the long yellow rectangle below; pink contains the C-111 South Dade Project of which Frog Pond is part; and the blue section at the top is the 8.5 Square Mile Area.So before we start jumping around…

Ecologically, this area is part of the Everglades Keys, the marl transverse glades, (where water once seeped through from the River of Grass) south of Miami.

-Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, page 49, 2011, McVoy.So how about today?

First, we must recognize the hard work of the public, the U.S. Department of the Interior,  the USACOE, the National Park system, and others. In the 1980s and 1990 all fought and achieved the Everglades  National  Park  Protection  and  Expansion  Act with the goal of protecting the eastern agriculture areas from flooding, but achieving more water into Everglades Nation Park. No easy task!

“To quote the book, page 257, River of Interests: “The  Interior  Department  and  the  National Park System agreed  that  acquisition  of Frog Pond was essential, claiming that it would restore freshwater to Florida Bay.” And as all has evolved, this is indeed being accomplished. Here is an excellent 2021 explanation from  SFWMD Chief District Engineer and Assistant Executive Director, John Mitnick.

“The Frog Pond Detention Area is a project in South Dade along the eastern side of ENP, and just southeast of the S-332D Detention Area.  It is part of the C-111 Spreader Canal CERP project.  Originally it was a detention area, meaning water was pumped into it and detained before it would evaporate or seep out into the groundwater table.  The purpose being to create a hydraulic ridge in the groundwater table (raise the groundwater elevation) to prevent groundwater and surface water from seeping out of ENP to the east.  Around 2016 the District undertook a project called the Florida Bay Project where we modified the detention areas to allow surface water to overland flow out of the detention cells into the headwaters of Taylor Slough after water had passed through the detention cells. This way it was a more direct hydration of the Taylor Slough.  Since it was completed, the project has been very effective at providing additional water to Taylor Slough.”

In its days as agriculture fields, the Frog Pond’s marl and limestone was mechanically ground up to create soil for crops. Though helpful for growing a menagerie of delicious things, this practice was very destructive to the ecology of the already drained lands.

Today the SFWMD has the lead on improving these lands. Christen Mason, Invasive Species Biologist and LeRoy Rodgers Section Leader, Vegetative Management, were proud to show me their restoration work.

The photo below is an excellent example comparing the invasive Napier Grass, on the right, which had totally taken over this area, and the restored rocky marl lands to the left-that have been “restored.”

Napier Grass is also called Elephant Grass and is a wicked invasive and very difficult to remove. Another invasive species, Burmese Pythons, are known to hide in it.

I.

-Left restored. Right full of invasive Napier GrassSo we can see that what was once a monoculture of invasive African Napier Grass is now a combination of native grasses and shrubs. A place for native birds and wildlife. This has taken decades. In some areas, pine trees were planted. Their pert green shoots explode against a blue sky. I hear chirps and singing insects everywhere! I keep looking for a frog, but don’t hear any.

-Christen Mason shows how the rock was ground up for soil-Native grasses and flowers have returned-LeRoy Rodgers holds a wildflower, and beautiful red bug -Pretty! Lots of butterflies!  -Gymnosperma glutinosum, Michelle’s favorite!-Calopogon tuberosus-a young slash pine reaching for the sky!-wild porter weed-a future forest-Beautiful native grasses and flowers-wild milkweed?-a cool water filled solution hole keeps life in dry times-note hammock in background. Lucky Hammock is most famous and a magnet for birds and bird watchers.-Christen poses for the camera. Surrounded by her creations!

II.

Next we drove north and hopped into a hammock. Frog Pond has famous hammocks especially in the west where lands were less disturbed. As we walked the rocky decline from the road, staff asked me if I was allergic to poison-wood or afraid of rattlesnakes. “Neither.” I replied. Proud my parents raised me like they did. Setting up my chair confidently, I took bite of my sandwich in the cool shade.

III.

The day was getting hot and we had to drive back to West Palm Beach, so next we jumped right along to the pump station!

Below is Structure-176, not too far north of the Frog Pond. This station pumps water that wants to go through those old marl transverse glades back into structures of the pink area creating  the hydraulic ridge Mr Mitnick wrote about. This ridge keeps water inside Everglades National Park- upper ground and surface water.

-S-176 -Water is sent back over the lands through the pump station. There are many in area!   Note the soil color and the solution holes!

We jumped back into the truck, and just when when I thought my trip couldn’t get any better,  the most wonderful thing occurred. As we approached I saw all these colored spots in the distance. I strained my eyes.

“Oh my gosh!”  I yelled.

Hundreds of wading birds had gathered. Wood storks, ibis, white egrets, blue herons, roseate spoon bills, and many others feasted, crammed together, on collections of fish and crustaceans.

I silently slid out of the truck, watching and trying not to disturb them. But as the trucks went past the birds lifted into the sky, squawking and flapping, then circling right back to their watery dinner table! I was in awe. “This is what it is all about,” I thought to myself. Like a description of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a sea of birds rose from the Everglades and blocked out the sun. My eyes filled with tears… My hope renewed for our wildlife, our lands, and our waters.

-Birds fly!AWSOME BIRD VIDEO!

 

I wiped the tears from my eyes. Staff was moved as well. We knew we had just witnessed the best of Everglades restoration. It is working.

For the next leg, I drove with Brenda Mills, Principle Project Manager, Everglades Restoration. I learned she was not only an accomplished engineer but also an avid birdwatcher and had even chaired her local chapter of the Native Plant Society!

As we got out of the trucks for our final look around, I was told we were standing in the at controversial 8.5 Square Mile Area. Lands before me had been scraped and restored, piles of earth rose to the horizon. Behind me, tall Royal Palms blew in the wind. I could see an orange painted house through the Napier Grass, Australian Pines, and animals roaming.

The wind blew, the dust rose. “It will start raining soon.” Brenda said. “This landscape will look totally different then, you should come back.”

“Will do,” I said. “I want to see the waters tumbling into Taylor Slough.”  We laughed knowing this area can go from dessert like to Colorado River within hours. I finally knew something about the Frog Pond; I had seen and learned so much. I wished I could stay longer at this amazing place. We all looked at each other, smiling. I kept listening -just hoping that before I left, I would hear one frog chirping. I thought I did, but it must have been a goat. What a day at the Frog Pond!

-SFWMD’s Christen, Rory, and Barbara are doing great work! Thanks for the tour! -Invasive Nadier Grass and Australian Pines in the 8.5 Square Mile Area-An area adjadcent to the 8.5 Square Mile Area that is is slowing being restored. It was once entirely full of Napier Grass. The birds and animals are coming back. -one last photo before we drive home 🙂

 

 

 

 

Taylor Slough,”The Great Water Disconnect,” SLR/IRL

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Road Trip Series, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon-Taylor Slough

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

We begin 2017 at the southern most part of our state, the Florida Everglades. Over the holidays my husband, Ed, and I continued the Road Trip Series further south to gather insights, one that I will share with you today: the great water disconnect of Taylor Slough. We have too much water and it doesn’t have enough. Could we help?

Before we begin, what is a “slough?” What a strange word!

For years I drove along a road in Port St Lucie, north of Stuart, named “Cane Slough.” I wondered to myself what that meant considering the area was paved over. When my mother told me Cane Slough was once a marshy shallow river, I thought how odd that was considering there was not trace of it today. The same thing, but on a much larger scale, has happened in the Florida Everglades and in both instances it is a great loss.

“Slough,” pronounced “slew,” is not just a river, but a river that is made for Florida’s dry and rainy seasons.  It is a slow-moving river whose grassy shores expand and contract. During the dry season when rains are scarce, the remaining water in the deepest part of these depressions is where plants and animals hold on to life-giving water until the rains begin anew…

Before South Florida was developed there were two main sloughs running through the Everglades to Florida Bay. Named, the Shark River, the largest, and Taylor Slew, smaller and further to the east. We must note that Florida Bay the past years has suffered from algae blooms and seagrass die off due to high salinity because Taylor Slew cannot flow southeast. This lack of water affects both land and marine communities.

It is easy to see the great “disconnect” for Taylor Slough on this National Park map. A park ranger informed me that “all water” received into Taylor Slew now comes via canal structures controlled by the South Florida Water Management District.

Yes, some great things finally are happening such as the recent construction of elevated bridges along Tamiami Trail designed to deliver more sheet flow into the park and a  future where  the “Chekika” public access area off 997 could be closed year-round so water could be flowing south. Others too I’ve no room to mention…

One can visually note that restoring this flow is tricky as Homestead’s agricultural and rural development zones abut the old water shed and Broward County north of this area has communities literally in the Everglades (C-11 Basin) that were once part of Taylor Slough as well. Crazy!

But, if we sent men to the moon 50 years ago, shouldn’t we be able to accomplish reconnecting the flow of water “today?” Now, when the Everglades and Florida Bay need it?

How can we along the St Lucie River help speed things up?

…Learn about Senator Negron’s proposal for 60,000 acres of storage, cleaning and conveyance in 2017. Learn about pressuring our government to “face the facts.”

…One thing is certain, we can’t allow the Everglades to die on our watch, and we have exactly what she needs…

Water.

Taylor Slough https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Slough
ENP C-111: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/c111.htm
C-11(1) Basin: http://c-11.org
C-111: http://palmm.digital.flvc.org/islandora/object/fiu%3A3643#page/FI05030101_cover1/mode/2up

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Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed land purchase map, 2017