Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami) has been collaborating with Miami-Dade County Chief Bay Officer Irela Bagué to address the misuse and subsequent deterioration of spoil island preserves and parks in Biscayne Bay, managed by local municipalities and Miami-Dade County, which have faced increased traffic and damages since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 17, Senator Garcia participated in a workshop hosted by Chief Bay Officer Bagué to review the state-owned spoil island contracts deeded to the City of Miami and other local municipalities. Currently, the island preserves and parks managed by the City of Miami are facing increased deterioration through misuse by illegal vessel charter and livery operations and their passengers. Senator Garcia has been working toward providing additional funding for their maintenance and improvement.
“Vessels that are illegally grounded or tied to trees are contributing to erosion and physical damage on the spoil islands in Biscayne Bay,” said Senator Garcia. “We must do all we can to protect and preserve these tranquil islands that provide our residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy Florida’s unique natural resources away from the hustle and bustle of Miami’s dynamic urban environment. Addressing illegal charter vessel and livery operations and their passengers will help improve our bay and protect the marine life and islands that make Biscayne Bay special.”
Senator Garcia and Chief Bay Officer Bagué share the common interest of protecting the threatened seagrass beds, manatees and charismatic marine life of Biscayne Bay. Notable issues include excess nutrient pollution leading to decreases in water quality of the bay, which in turn have contributed to the loss of seagrass beds, and physical damage, injury or fatalities to both seagrass beds and other marine life as a result of careless vessel operations.
“We must all take responsibility and treat Biscayne Bay and these spoil islands the same as we would our backyard. These islands are precious recreational spaces being destroyed by illegal activity, excessive use, irresponsible behavior, and a blatant disregard for nature and our unique wildlife. For decades, Miami-Dade County has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to restore these natural areas and pays weekly for removing trash and debris left behind. We are working with Senator Garcia, law enforcement, and our municipal partners to increase enforcement and prohibit certain uses on the islands,” said Irela Bagué, Chief Bay Officer of Miami-Dade County.
Over the last several years, the Florida Senate has made unprecedented investments in Florida’s natural resources and has prioritized the protection and restoration of Florida waterways. To bolster these efforts, during the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Garcia secured $36 million for coastal resiliency and Biscayne Bay preservation and restoration projects. She also spearheaded the passage of House Bill 1177, Biscayne Bay (2021), which authorizes an influx of state resources for a more coordinated and unified approach toward improving Biscayne Bay while also preventing the discharge of untreated effluent from sewage disposal facilities into the bay and its tributaries.
Senator Garcia has also been assisting the City of Miami with the establishment of a slow speed minimum wake zone in the City’s Marine Stadium, increasing the police presence on the Miami River to enforce existing speed zones, and providing additional resources to law enforcement. With both the Marine Stadium and Miami River being areas frequented by the widely beloved Florida manatee and other marine life, these efforts will prove critical in preventing further incidents of animal strikes and physical damage to nearby seagrass beds.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the damage from boat propellers is a major threat to seagrass beds and results in the long-term or permanent scarring or destruction of them.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, watercraft can be attributed to causing 20-25 percent of all manatee deaths in Florida. Furthermore, it has been found that only approximately four percent of adult manatees are devoid of watercraft-related scarring; most manatees will be struck by vessels more than once throughout their life.
For more information, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.