Jordan Marsh Water Quality Treatment Park project to enhance quality of life
The community heard an update regarding the Jordan Marsh Water Quality Park last week, which is a project that is designed to act as an educational, recreational and mechanical tool.
Natural Resource Director James Evans said AIM Engineering & Surveying have been tasked with designing and engineering the Jordan Marsh Water Quality Treatment Park, which will be located off of Casa Ybel Road.
“The goal of this project is to move nitrogen and phosphorus from the eastern Sanibel River basin. That will help us to achieve our Total Maximum Daily Load goal,” Evans said. “That has been assigned to the Sanibel River by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”
He said the Total Maximum Daily Load is the nutrient threshold of which the natural system is overloaded with nutrients and has negative responses like algae blooms.
“It’s going to help improve the quality of life on Sanibel,” Evans said of reducing the nitrogen and phosphorous in the Sanibel River.
It will affect property values, as well as restore the fish population in the Sanibel River.
The project partners with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Evans said the City of Sanibel owns approximately 6 acres near the Sanibel River. The project will also use 8.5 acres of the SCCF owned Bob Wigley Preserve for a pump station.
The Jordan Marsh Preserve land was acquired in the 1990s. Evans said the invasive exotic plants, such as the Brazilian Pepper and Australian Pines, were removed from the site in the early 2000s.
A couple ponds were added on the property to enhance the wildlife.
“This project will actually result in a complete enhancement of the site converting a large portion of the parcel from uplands to wetlands,” he said, adding that it will enhance foraging for wading birds, as well as recreational opportunities for residents and visitors of the island.
Munir Al-Suleh with AIM Engineering & Surveying, Inc. said in order to improve the water quality in the Sanibel Slough they have designed a filter marsh that will provide treatment for the removal of nitrogen and phosphorous.
The water will be pumped from the Sanibel Slough through the filter marsh before flowing out the outflow to reduce the phosphorous and nitrogen in the water.
“The higher the flow, the more water you treat,” Evans said. “But the longer the water sits in the system, so a slower flow, the more percent reduction you can get from that water.”
He said a total load they are looking at was a 47 percent reduction.
“Based on the calculations that is a very conservative estimate,” Evans said. “We will be able to optimize the numbers when we tweak the design.”
Al-Suleh said the two existing ponds on the property will be incorporated into the design.
The park will include a welcome kiosk, shell trail and an education and observation tower in the second phase of the project, as well as an existing SCCF gazebo.
“The idea is people can go there and look at the park and be educated about what plants and other things they can plant in their own community lakes to enhance water quality. It’s really an educational tool, recreational tool, as well as a mechanical tool to remove nitrogen and phosphorous,” Evans said. “It’s going to enhance habitat, provide additional recreational opportunities. The access will be located off a shared use path.”
Some of the native vegetation that has been proposed to use on site include bald cypress, Carolina willow, silver buttonwood gumbo limbo, saw palmetto, coontie, wax myrtle, leather fern, black needle rush, cordgrass, pickerel weed, ducks potato.
Evans said their plans and current schedule is to have the project completed by the end of December, so they can have it under construction in February. He said they are currently in the permitting process and as soon as that is completed they can move forward.
“The total budget for this project is somewhere around $600,000,” Evans said, adding that they have received a $150,000 grant from the South Florida Management District.
Evans said the City of Sanibel has been working very hard for at least the last 17 years that he has been working for them in making water quality the number one priority both regionally and on island. He said they began monitoring the water in the early 2000s, enabling them to understand what is going on in the Sanibel River, so they know what to do to improve water quality.
Some improvements include switching from septic to central sewer, fertilizer ordinance, best management practices for golf courses and Sanibel Community for Clean Water program.
Evans said between the Donax plant and the upgrades for the current project they will be pretty close to 80 percent of their TMDL.
“These two projects combined will make a huge difference in the Sanibel Slough,” Evans said. “These projects are a major investment for the community, but it will certainly pay dividends.”
Water quality update
Evans said unfortunately their flows are significantly above three and a half times the high flow harm threshold for the estuary. He said to put that into context, their average for the high flow harm threshold is 2,800 cubic feet per second compared to the last week of September of 10,497 cubic feet per second.
“When you start to look at the last decade within the lake (Lake Okeechobee), you’ll notice that we are at the highest level in the past 10 years. That does present a significant risk to the communities south of the lake. Frankly, the Army Corps of Engineers does not have a choice, but to release water,” Evans said. “All we can do is make sure that it is dispersed equitably and that it is being dispersed to the east coast, as well as west coast at an equal percentage that our structures can handle.”
He said as they move into the dry season, which is now, they should start to see the area south of Lake O dry up and they should have no problem moving more water south. Evans said they should also start to see areas from the north start to draw down the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes are at, or above schedule.
“Once they hit schedule they will start decreasing those flows to the north,” he said. “We are just in a tough spot. Unfortunately there is not a lot that we can do. I would rather see the water move out of the system quicker, rather than have this be prolonged, or add to the winter, the peak of tourism season and impact the residents that are coming down for the winter.”
Evans said they are starting to see some dark water throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Early September he said they started to see significant flows from Lake O, when they started to draw the lake down for the storm. After the hurricane, he said they started releasing gradually from the lake.
“There’s a lot of water coming from the watershed,” Evans said, adding that on average they are seeing about 10,000 cubic feet per second. “Since the hurricane, however, our average has been around 12,000 cubic feet per second.”
With the higher cubic feet per second range, he said they were seeing fresh water fish washing up on the bay, as well as impacts to the marine fish in the bay.
“Those fish that can’t move very quickly, puffers, and others, did die as a result,” Evans said. “There were definitely impacts.”
He said when looking at the total nutrient concentration, total nutrient load to the system, he does not believe they are going to hit the nutrient load threshold this year. However, since 2016 was a tough year with a lot of nutrients coming into the system, it is not going to take a lot to trigger an algae bloom.
Evans said he anticipates to see high water flow through December, January time. He said it will all be dependable on land conditions and demand of water.