Posted April 11, 2020
Serving 8.1 million residents and millions of visitors in 16 counties, the South Florida Water Management District does just what its name implies: control water. That means providing flood control when there's too much water, drinking supplies when there's not enough and restoring as much of the area's natural water systems as having all those residents and visitors will allow. TYLER TREADWAY/TCPALM
The South Florida Water Management District is going to help St. Lucie County dredge muck out of Taylor Creek in Fort Pierce.
The district's board Thursday agreed to be the county's state partner on a project to dredge the creek from the U.S. 1 bridge to the Indian River Lagoon and seek a $2.5 million grant from the Florida Inland Navigation District to help pay the estimated $3.6 million cost.
Both the creek and the C-25 Canal that flows into it stretch into suburban and farming areas in the northwestern part of the county and combine to dump tons of sediment in the Indian River Lagoon between the Fort Pierce Inlet and the North Bridge connecting the mainland and North Hutchinson Island.
The muck accumulation is "affecting both the environment and navigation" in the creek, according to a district report.
Marina operators have reported shoals in the creek have caused some deep-draft boats to run aground during low tides, county Public Works Director Don West told TCPalm in January.
The muck also contains nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, said Warren Falls, managing director of the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce.
"When those nutrients get released into the water, they can feed algae blooms."
An algae bloom caused a bright green slick in the water along a dock at Harbortown Marina on Taylor Creek near the lagoon in August, a time when there were no other blooms reported along the Treasure Coast.
"Yeah, it's always good to get rid of muck," Falls said, "but it would be far better, and a lot easier than dredging every few years, to go upstream, find where the sediment is coming from and stop it once and for all."
In December the county got a $585,210 grant from Florida Department of Environmental Protection to "spot dredge" around entrances to the marina, fueling stations and haul-out facilities this summer.
The stretch of the creek from the highway to the lagoon was last dredged in July 2004. Since then, sediment has reduced the depth of the creek channel from 14 feet to 7 feet, West said.
A bill sponsored by state Reps. Delores Hogan Johnson, D-Fort Pierce, and Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, in the 2020 Florida Legislature resulted in a grant of about $500,000, said county spokesman Erick Gill — enough to pay about half the county's share of slightly over $1 million.
The FIND grant would "help make up the gap from state appropriation," Gill said.
The county's contractor, Dredging and Marine Construction, has started designing the project and is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to get permits for the project.
"If things proceed as we had hoped, the dredging would start in six to eight months," Gill said, "but at this stage, we will hope for the best due to the (COVID-19) virus issues and resulting delays."
The project to dredge the creek to a depth of 14 feet, 6 inches could begin as early as summer 2021 and take 10 to 12 months to complete, West said.
The agreement to seek the grant was part of the board's consent agenda and was approved without discussion.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the board met via the online meeting tool Zoom.
Tyler Treadway is an environment reporter who specializes in issues facing the Indian River Lagoon. Support his work on TCPalm.com. Contact him at 772-221-4219 and email@example.com.