ABSTRACT: The embayments and estuaries of Florida's southwest coast are an integral part of the south Florida ecosystem. Nutrients and other constituents are transported to these coastal waters by surface water and ground-water flow from the Everglades National Park (ENP) and the Big Cypress Preserve and by longshore and offshore tidal currents. The coastal area is an essential breeding ground for many estuarine and marine species and is a popular location for wilderness recreational pursuits as well as sport fishing. The volume of flow and the loads of nutrients being discharged from the streams draining the upland areas of ENP and Big Cypress Preserve currently are unknown.
As part of Everglades restoration activities, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may change the volume or location of water deliveries to the ENP. Such changes could affect the volume or distribution of inflow and associated constituents that are transported into the coastal waters of southwest Florida. Proposals to change water deliveries to the Everglades National Park and efforts to improve the environmental health of Florida Bay cannot be evaluated without some understanding of the hydrologic and water-quality characteristics of tidal rivers and coastal embayments in the region.
The southwest coast of Florida is part of a wilderness area with unique hydraulic characteristics that has historically been described as the "River of Grass." Flat terrain and lack of controlled topographic information has made it difficult to define drainage divides. Low gradients, coupled with tidal effects, create complex conditions under which to measure riverine flow. It has been almost thirty years since any effort has been made to monitor flow characteristics continuously in the area. Significant technological advancements have occurred during this time and this new technology can be applied to help obtain the information needed to make informed decisions about the future of this unique coastal area.