The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral

Miami Herald Environmental Journalist Curtis Morgan talks Biscayne Bay, fishing and the consequences of dumping our sewage near our beaches

May 23, 2022 Oscar Corral
Miami Herald Environmental Journalist Curtis Morgan talks Biscayne Bay, fishing and the consequences of dumping our sewage near our beaches
The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
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The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral
Miami Herald Environmental Journalist Curtis Morgan talks Biscayne Bay, fishing and the consequences of dumping our sewage near our beaches
May 23, 2022
Oscar Corral

In this episode, Oscar interviews Miami Herald editor Curtis Morgan. Curtis is one of the best known environmental journalists in Florida. He has been a reporter or editor directing environmental coverage for close to 30 years. He’a also an avie fisherman that grew up fishing the sea grass flats around South Florida, often taking a 14-foot boat when he was a teenager out into the Gulfstream current.  Since that time, he’s come to know the issues affecting the health of the everglades, Florida Bay and Biscayne bay intimately. He talks about the long gone Miami River rapids; the foolish decision by local leaders to dump almost all of South Florida’s partially treated raw sewage a mile and a half from Miami’s world-renown beaches; and the hopes for bringing back some of the lost beauty through everglades and Biscayne bay restoration.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Oscar interviews Miami Herald editor Curtis Morgan. Curtis is one of the best known environmental journalists in Florida. He has been a reporter or editor directing environmental coverage for close to 30 years. He’a also an avie fisherman that grew up fishing the sea grass flats around South Florida, often taking a 14-foot boat when he was a teenager out into the Gulfstream current.  Since that time, he’s come to know the issues affecting the health of the everglades, Florida Bay and Biscayne bay intimately. He talks about the long gone Miami River rapids; the foolish decision by local leaders to dump almost all of South Florida’s partially treated raw sewage a mile and a half from Miami’s world-renown beaches; and the hopes for bringing back some of the lost beauty through everglades and Biscayne bay restoration.

00:00:02:10 - 00:00:16:20
Unknown
Welcome to the nature of Florida, the Sunshine State's only podcast dedicated to its wild and natural places and the fight to preserve them. I'm your host, Oscar Corral, a two time Emmy Award winning filmmaker and journalist. I've dedicated much of my career to making films about environmental issues.

00:00:16:21 - 00:00:33:07
Unknown
Tune in each week to hear from a broad range of voices from scientists to surfers, activists to mermaids who are working on the front lines to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty and its wildlife. Hello, fellow Florida nature lovers, and welcome to the Nature of Florida podcast.

00:00:33:13 - 00:00:58:11
Unknown
I'm honored and privileged to welcome veteran environmental journalist Curtis Morgan. Curtis has been an editor with the Miami Herald for many years, expertly covering the local statewide and and even national issues impacting Florida's environment. And you'll be hard pressed to find someone more knowledgeable to preserve our state's natural flora and fauna and committed to educating and inspiring

00:00:58:11 - 00:01:12:20
Unknown
our residents to support this important cause. So thanks, Curtis, for joining us and welcome to the podcast. Get started right away. I want to know, Curtis, what's the best fishing spot in Miami? It's my pleasure to be here.

00:01:12:20 - 00:01:23:04
Unknown
First off, and I like the title nature of Florida. That's that's going to that's going to work. I'm glad you want to trademark that. The best fishing spot in Miami. It depends on what you want to do, man.

00:01:24:00 - 00:01:35:09
Unknown
I tend to do shallow water flats, fishing. So there's a lot of beautiful grass flats that are still healthy on the fringes of Biscayne Bay. I know there is a place out there that a lot of people know.

00:01:35:10 - 00:01:54:15
Unknown
Soldier Quay is surrounded by very large and healthy grass flats, and that's where I would tend to find bonefish, which is something that I pursue. I used to I will tell you that I used to see them a lot, even though I'm not an expert at catching them when to catch them occasionally.

00:01:54:23 - 00:02:10:13
Unknown
But now I don't see them so much anymore. So that's a question that a lot of people have, is have the bonefish disappeared, etc. There's a lot of questions about the freeze and migratory patterns and climate change, but I like any of the grass plots of Biscayne Bay or where I live, you'll find me.

00:02:12:01 - 00:02:24:12
Unknown
Biscayne Bay has been going through some changes over the past 20 years, and you being out there often have probably seen this with your own eyes. Tell me about some of the changes you've seen out of Biscayne Bay over the last 20 or 25 years.

00:02:24:14 - 00:02:37:21
Unknown
Oh, my goodness. 20 years. I can I could go back to some of my earliest childhood memories. This is, you know, unfortunately, more than 50 years ago, ah, you know, fishing in sands cut with my father in a crappy old boat.

00:02:37:21 - 00:03:03:12
Unknown
And there used to be healthy corals near shore, actually on the outside of the Elliott Key and those islands, a lot of those corals have died. The grass flats have disappeared. You've probably seen drone footage of many of the flats have been crisscrossed with prop marks because of the vast influx of boaters.

00:03:03:22 - 00:03:21:20
Unknown
So, I mean, it's had profound changes more recently. What has happened in particularly in the last couple of years as we've seen more seagrass die offs, algae blooms and in the northern part of the bay, this would be, I guess, north of government cut.

00:03:21:21 - 00:03:38:23
Unknown
And there's been what some of the scientists call a regime change, which means some of the shoal, grass and turtle grass beds that used to dominate the shallow water areas there are gone. And they turn to other forms of algae that grow on the bottom and things like that.

00:03:39:23 - 00:03:59:16
Unknown
There is a lot of thought that that has to do with just the nutrient load pollution pouring in from the canals and the Herald, as Alex Harris and Adriana Brasileira are. Environmental reporters have done a couple of very lengthy stories of late on the impacts of septic tanks on the bay.

00:03:59:17 - 00:04:16:18
Unknown
I mean, they've been around here for decades. They were 50 years ago, the EPA warned that septic tanks were a huge problem for the bay. We've done nothing about it. There's still 125,000 of them. And so now there's talk to do stuff about it, but it's sort of a mix of influences that has impacted the bay.

00:04:17:08 - 00:04:35:08
Unknown
So 50 years ago, the EPA warned that septic tanks were a problem in the bay. And very little has been done. Has has the state acknowledged that septic tanks are a problem in the bay? And is there any sort of plan to try to reduce the amount of septic tanks in Miami-Dade County and maybe switch them to

00:04:35:08 - 00:04:50:16
Unknown
Central Sewer or something like that? Yeah, there's I mean, there's been a variety, you know, every ten or 20 years or some some report what the state's position is on it. At the moment, I'm not exactly sure. It had been a kind of an EPA study.

00:04:50:17 - 00:05:06:20
Unknown
I'm sure the states looked at it. I think I think most of the environmental or stand that they're a big part of the print load. But replacing these things is incredibly expensive. You have to run sewer lines through old established neighborhoods and things like that.

00:05:06:20 - 00:05:27:14
Unknown
I think the latest estimate to get rid of the vast majority of Miami Dade septic tanks is $4 billion, $4 billion. Most recently, we made a big hullabaloo because the state pledged $20 million to Biscayne Bay clean up and the county, I think through in ten.

00:05:28:00 - 00:05:44:04
Unknown
So that's 30 million on a $4 billion cost. But they are beginning to talk about picking some of the low hanging fruit, some of the the. The septic systems that are most obviously failing and nearer to the bay.

00:05:44:10 - 00:05:58:12
Unknown
I think they're first on the agenda, but I don't know if anybody has made any decisions to actually start doing it. There's a high cost to homeowners. Most of these, you know, this could cost 10 to $20000 for a homeowner to replace.

00:05:58:20 - 00:06:09:18
Unknown
So there's some sort of talk of maybe some sort of shared funding from local and state government, maybe even federal government that would help offset those costs. But it's it's not it's not something that's going to happen overnight.

00:06:11:05 - 00:06:26:06
Unknown
Isn't Miami also one of the only communities in the United States that still sends their sewage, partially treated sewage and dumps it out in the ocean just a couple of miles from our famous beaches? Isn't that happening? They do, yes.

00:06:26:06 - 00:06:39:15
Unknown
Yes. I think I'm not sure if Broward phased it out. I think Palm Beach has. But this used to be the method in southeast Florida, not so much in southwest, but in southeast Florida, all all the way up to Brevard County.

00:06:39:15 - 00:07:00:20
Unknown
You would run a sewer pipe out about a mile and a half and and dump partially treated sewage. And about a decade ago, the state decided that that was not a bad not a good practice. There was some evidence that it was doing damage to reefs with algae collections and stuff like that.

00:07:01:05 - 00:07:24:03
Unknown
The original idea was there's an old, old saying in sewage management that the solution to pollution is dilution. Have you ever heard that? So basically when you if you dilute sewage or pollution, the effects minimal. So the idea was that we could pump millions of gallons of sewage out into the Gulf Stream and it would pick up

00:07:24:03 - 00:07:41:11
Unknown
and move around and be diluted and not have much impact. But what they observed was that over time it was damaging the reefs. I will tell you that for decades, some of those outfall areas where they would bubble up would attract a lot of baitfish and a lot of mackerel.

00:07:41:11 - 00:08:02:06
Unknown
And they were popular fishing areas for some people, so that the state mandated that all these counties do away with that by, I believe, 2025, that's what, four years from now. So the county has been looking for ways to utilize, I think it's like 100 or 125 million gallons a day of sewage.

00:08:02:18 - 00:08:18:15
Unknown
And the most recent one is they are reaching an agreement with Florida Power and Light to use treated wastewater to help resolve some of the cooling canal and cooling issues at Turkey Point. Those those have malfunctioned to some degree.

00:08:20:00 - 00:08:39:22
Unknown
Why is that important? Does Turkey point use a lot of water that they pump from the aquifer? Why? Why would Turkey point need to use recycled wastewater? Well, Turkey Point has the unique nuclear power plant. I think it's built in the I forget in the sixties, but went online in the seventies and it has a a vast

00:08:39:22 - 00:08:58:12
Unknown
network of cooling canals. If you you can actually see it from satellites. It's pretty amazing. It looks like a giant radiator down here in South Dade. And so that the idea was that those cooling canals, the water would basically circulate through and they would use it to cool the nuclear power plant, the generators there.

00:08:59:08 - 00:09:19:21
Unknown
Over time, those canals would become hyper saline, super salty. And because they're built in limestone, porous limestone, they've also leaked out to surrounding areas. They've leaked into surrounding groundwater and potentially could threaten drinking water. Well, fields to the west.

00:09:20:06 - 00:09:34:10
Unknown
And they've also leaked into Biscayne Bay to some degree. And more recently, the utility has struggled with higher water temperatures in the canals and algae blooms, which have kind of limited their effectiveness for cooling, cooling a nuclear reactor.

00:09:34:24 - 00:09:51:06
Unknown
So as part of the plan to resolve this, they need more fresh water to go into those canals. And so that's where the sewage comes in. Now, what's going to happen is initially the plan was to put that treated sewage into the canals, but there was a concern it would leak out into the bay.

00:09:51:16 - 00:10:05:14
Unknown
Now they're going to do some they're going to basically use the treated sewage to cool some gas fired power plants and take the water they were using there and put it in the canal. So it's all basically to resolve cooling problems there.

00:10:05:19 - 00:10:18:19
Unknown
Part of the Everglades restoration plan initially was to send more fresh water to Biscayne Bay. It used to be more of an estuary environment. There used to be oysters down there, and now it's almost too salty, probably saltier than the ocean.

00:10:19:09 - 00:10:32:10
Unknown
So there also is interest in getting more freshwater into the wetlands and South Biscayne Bay. And there are some environmentalists and some groups that are pushing to expand that new sewage plant to maybe treat water and put it out into the bay.

00:10:32:24 - 00:10:47:06
Unknown
Everglades restoration has a loose connection to Biscayne Bay in terms of water flow. So I guess when they drain South Florida, you know, a hundred years ago or whatever, they didn't take into account the fact that a lot of that fresh water ended up in Biscayne Bay.

00:10:47:24 - 00:11:04:22
Unknown
Yeah, it did. Tell me about that. Well, no, it was just I mean, you may have heard if you drive across Tamiami Trail or Alligator Alley, you're driving over an area called the Shark River Slew, which was, you know, used to water used to come down from Lake Okeechobee, go through the central Everglades and go down through

00:11:04:22 - 00:11:23:16
Unknown
Shark River, slew into Florida Bay. And so when the lake got too high, all that water would spill down. And it was. That's why they call it the river of grass. The water flows through the grass. But there were also slews, lesser known, that would break off and go towards southern Biscayne Bay and even the Miami River

00:11:23:24 - 00:11:37:23
Unknown
. You know, you know about the Miami Rapids. You know, you ever seen the Miami Rapids? There's like a trailer. There's a trailer park there now over what used to be the Miami Rapids. So there is Miami Rapids where yeah, they were called the Miami Rapids, but they really weren't.

00:11:38:22 - 00:11:57:18
Unknown
You know, a giant rapids, but there was an area where the water would flow out of the glades historically and over these little rapids and work their way to the bay. So there used to be part of the flow of the Everglades would come off into Florida Bay, into Bard Sound, which is between Biscayne Bay and Florida

00:11:57:18 - 00:12:12:05
Unknown
Bay and make its way over there. And that's all been cut off by development decades ago. So part of the plan, and I think it was kind of a minor part of the Everglades restoration plan, was to somehow also revive flows to Biscayne Bay.

00:12:13:07 - 00:12:28:20
Unknown
That has been heavy lifting. There's a lot of competing interests. If you pour more water down there, the farmers are concerned it will it will rot their roots of avocado trees. And there's there's been a lot of political and scientific debate about just how to do that.

00:12:28:21 - 00:12:50:20
Unknown
So the idea that you could take treated wastewater and use it is is appealing. The problem with treated wastewater is when we flush our toilets and urinate and do other sort of bodily functions, we also release stuff that's in our system like pharmaceuticals, birth control pills that aren't totally absorbed.

00:12:50:21 - 00:13:02:16
Unknown
And and there's been some studies that suggest those things don't get cleaned out in most sewage treatment plants and they can affect the marine life. And do those things end up in our drinking water? Do they come back to us somehow?

00:13:03:07 - 00:13:19:18
Unknown
I don't know about the drinking water. I think it's more just the sewage water. You know, I think that drinking water is more impacted by. Rock mining and and sewage spills or oil spills and things like that that happen in industrial areas.

00:13:20:18 - 00:13:37:06
Unknown
So going back to the bay you told me about. Tell me about your experience growing up in Biscayne Bay and how you got into fishing. You mentioned earlier you're going on in an old boat with your dad. Tell me about about your early experiences with Biscayne Bay and what time period we're talking about.

00:13:37:22 - 00:13:54:00
Unknown
We're talking about the 1960s and seventies. You know, I my family was here in the in the late fifties. I was technically born in Del, but I think we moved down to South Dade when I was like six months or so.

00:13:54:00 - 00:14:07:18
Unknown
So I consider myself a miami native in the coral reef area near Deering Estate. You know where that is? Yes. You know where different stay that you've been to the state desk or haven't you? Okay, so, you know, it's the bay was right there.

00:14:07:19 - 00:14:28:09
Unknown
You could ride your bicycle to it. And my father just like the outdoor. So we got an old boat and that was part of our our lifestyle. We spent a lot of weekends on Biscayne Bay, and my folks bought a place in the Keys, a little undeveloped strip of land, and he stuck a trailer on there and

00:14:29:11 - 00:14:43:06
Unknown
we didn't have the money to to build a house. But so he would pull a construction permit every like six months, which allowed you to keep the trailer there. Never did a construction, but we had a little trailer, so it was just part of our lifestyle.

00:14:43:07 - 00:14:59:24
Unknown
And then my dad died when I was pretty young and I my mom would continue to allow me to use this little boat that we had, a little whaler like boat. And I don't know, she'd probably be arrested now, but back then you could you just take a 13 or 14 year old boy down to the boat

00:14:59:24 - 00:15:08:09
Unknown
ramp, let him go for the day and then come back and get him later. So it was a lot of fun. So it was you know, it just we did a lot of diving and fishing and stuff like that.

00:15:08:09 - 00:15:20:08
Unknown
So I have a real affection for the place. So so you were out you were out on Biscayne Bay alone on a boat when you were 13 years old. And you take that thing out. Well, you know, I usually I usually took a friend or two along.

00:15:21:03 - 00:15:32:14
Unknown
Right. But but you are basically kids unsupervised. I mean, you had the freedom to go out in the bay. What was that like to go out as a kid and just kind of point that boat wherever you wanted to go and go?

00:15:34:16 - 00:15:50:12
Unknown
Well, it was it was a lot of fun. You. It was a lot of fun and probably did some dumb things. I mean, we take this little boat out to the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic and, you know, in the shipping lanes and watch these big boats go by if the weather was proper.

00:15:50:12 - 00:16:03:16
Unknown
But I don't think that's unusual for kids that that grew up down here. I think I think I have a lot of friends that did the same sort of things. I mean, you see that now as well in the Intercoastal.

00:16:03:16 - 00:16:16:19
Unknown
But, you know, my boat was 14 feet long and I think had a 50 horsepower motor. And now everybody seems to have 30 foot boats with triple motors and 400 horsepower on it or something like that. So it was you know, it was just something something we.

00:16:16:19 - 00:16:33:19
Unknown
Did you take a 14 foot boat out to the Gulfstream? Yeah. If the weather wasn't right. Well, look, there are stories there are stories of people that would take would take their 17 foot boats across to Bimini. Way back when this was before GPS and everything else.

00:16:33:19 - 00:16:45:12
Unknown
But it was it the smartest thing in the world now. But I mean, you know, we had compasses and most of the time, you know, you were you could see the islands and things like that. I mean, it wasn't it wasn't foolhardy or anything like that.

00:16:45:12 - 00:16:57:21
Unknown
But but there was just there was a lot more, you know, the fish were larger and there were more lobster and a lot of things were easier. There just wasn't the the the pressure on the resources that there that there is.

00:16:57:21 - 00:17:13:18
Unknown
Now, I also went on the bay when I was younger, not as not as often. I never owned a boat, but I had an uncle who did get out of the bay a few times and correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember certain parts of the bay being clearer.

00:17:13:19 - 00:17:29:02
Unknown
Water, I mean, the water was more clear most of the year and you could see through that water a lot of the time I've gone out there more recently and that clarity seems to be sometimes it's there, but a lot of times there's just not the same clarity that the Bay used to have.

00:17:29:02 - 00:17:43:04
Unknown
Is that part of the problem that's going on in Biscayne Bay? Well, you know, it depends on where you are. I would tell you that I'm my. Biscayne Bay basically was from the stilts Bill. Key Biscayne area south.

00:17:43:21 - 00:18:03:07
Unknown
And so those areas still remain some of the clearer and cleaner areas of the bay because there's more circulation there. But to the north, like dump dumbfounding in bay and places like that, there were some very severe pollution problems back, I think, in the seventies or eighties.

00:18:05:12 - 00:18:22:21
Unknown
That actually improved. Miami-Dade County took a lot of measures to clean up that northern section and central section of the bay. And and it worked, I think, but I'm not as familiar with that. But I think there is a sense that those areas are now that those are the areas that are now in decline.

00:18:24:08 - 00:18:41:17
Unknown
And basically between Miami Beach and the mainland. Okay. Okay. So between Miami Beach and the mainland, so north of Key Biscayne, going up to like the right on up through hall over in that area. Those are areas, I think, where you're seeing the regime change.

00:18:41:18 - 00:19:02:15
Unknown
I will say, however, that even, you know, all the way south in the bay, there's been some University of Miami biologists and scientists over the years who've studied the bay bottom and nearshore, and particularly where there's any kind of inlet or river coming out to the bay.

00:19:02:23 - 00:19:24:00
Unknown
There's also been a die off of some of the. The healthier seagrasses, and they've been replaced by shore grasses that don't support natural grasses, other algae and other bottom life that don't support as much marine life. So I think when that happens, whether wind and currents can stir up more muck and mud.

00:19:25:03 - 00:19:39:01
Unknown
So there may be days where the bay looks doesn't look as clear as it once did, because all this stuff can be more easily stirred up. Stirred up. But then other days, it'll look exactly like it used to.

00:19:39:09 - 00:19:59:03
Unknown
I mean, I've noticed I also fish a lot in the Everglades and Florida Bay has had some very well documented, well chronicled, wrote about it. Seagrass die offs over the decades. Periodic. There was some huge ones in the eighties and that was an area where the water once was clear almost all the time.

00:19:59:03 - 00:20:12:00
Unknown
And now you go down there and if the wind kicks up for a couple of days, it's like you're boating on you because there's so much mud in the water. When the winds die down, it'll that it'll it'll clear up somewhat.

00:20:12:00 - 00:20:26:10
Unknown
But there's been a profound change in the water clarity in Florida Bay in areas particularly around Flamingo that I don't notice quite as much in in Biscayne Bay. Yeah, Flamingo seems to be kind of like the kind of muddy bottom bay.

00:20:26:10 - 00:20:42:02
Unknown
It was not always like that, you're saying? Not. Not always, no. And in fact, if you go out there in the summertime when the winds aren't howling, I think you'll see that that right right off the you know, the main the main little channel there where the hotel used to be.

00:20:42:13 - 00:21:01:10
Unknown
There's a lovely little grass flat. It's not turtle grass that you would find in in the keys or anything like that. But there are other sort of grasses there. But that could be clear. You could see fish and redfish and tarpon and things like that from time to time.

00:21:01:19 - 00:21:26:04
Unknown
But I mean, look, I'm not this is not a scientific analysis. This is just my impression of the place where the water clarity has really changed is is more of that that Florida bay along the coast. I remember reading that in the seventies and eighties, Tampa Bay was really polluted and there was an effort done by local

00:21:26:04 - 00:21:41:17
Unknown
and state government officials there to rehabilitate Tampa Bay. And then you fast forward 30 years and Tampa Bay is in pretty healthy shape today, much healthier than it was 30 or 40 years ago, at least according to what I've read.

00:21:43:05 - 00:21:56:18
Unknown
Is there a possibility to rescue at least the northern part of Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, and what would it take? Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think the there's there's all sorts of steps that that can be done.

00:21:56:18 - 00:22:18:18
Unknown
I mean, the main thing for Florida Bay, I think, is to begin to restore the historic water flow from the Everglades down to the bay that will lower salinity levels. Theoretically, it would reduce the number of algae blooms and other things that that begin to spark these seagrass die offs.

00:22:19:05 - 00:22:34:19
Unknown
And if you could have and again, I'm not a scientist that just talked to them, but my impression is if you can begin to get the water balanced correctly, then then the the benthic, the bottom life will will slowly recover as well.

00:22:34:19 - 00:22:51:18
Unknown
And I think there I think there's been some evidence more recently, we just the water management district just put out. Some good news about water levels in the Everglades system and the fact that wading birds had responded. And there's a lot of nesting things like that.

00:22:52:02 - 00:23:12:08
Unknown
And there was some evidence that more water was getting to Florida Bay, which would hopefully reduce some of these things that have knocked down the seagrass beds and other things like that. So I think there are there are measures that you can take in restoring water flow and reducing nutrient loads, fertilizers, human and dog crap.

00:23:13:14 - 00:23:33:13
Unknown
You know, I think the all these systems can tolerate some of that, again, because dilution is the solution. But I believe that the the problems in the in the central and northern part of Biscayne Bay may have to do with the fact that they don't have quite as much current or quite as much circulation as the southern

00:23:33:13 - 00:23:53:12
Unknown
half does. But that that's just my impression. But I think up in the Indian River Lagoon and Brevard and Indian River Counties, they've had some very serious pollution problems up there. And and I think there's been a big manatee die off in that area this year, in part because of the damage to the seagrass beds.

00:23:53:12 - 00:24:15:09
Unknown
And there's some thought that these that the sea cows just might be starving. So that's an area that also has some circulation challenges. You know, there's not like a real simple natural, natural flushing system. So I think when those areas experience problems and excess pollution, they're probably more sensitive.

00:24:17:01 - 00:24:33:02
Unknown
What does Biscayne Bay mean to Miami in terms of its identity? And is it something that everybody can access no matter if they're rich or poor? Tell me about about how Biscayne Bay is Miami's identity. Well, I mean, we've written a couple of stories over the years.

00:24:33:02 - 00:24:59:15
Unknown
It's hard to define it. You know, there's a national park, Biscayne National Park, that covers a lot of Biscayne Bay and basically from Statesville South to Card Sound Bridge. And most people don't even know they're in it. You know, there's a little headquarters down there and in Homestead, but 90% of the park is water.

00:25:01:00 - 00:25:19:22
Unknown
So, I mean, I think historically people who have been in Miami and loved the outdoors in Miami have identified Biscayne Bay as, you know, this gorgeous resource. It's a backyard playground for a lot of people. It's just a lovely landscape.

00:25:19:22 - 00:25:37:07
Unknown
But it's also this, you know, really terrific natural resource full of fish and everything else. So it serves many purposes. But I think the fact that there was a drive by local residents and there was a big push in the sixties to create this national park.

00:25:38:01 - 00:26:00:19
Unknown
Lloyd Miller, excuse me, and former Herald reporter Juanita Green, who was one of the first environmental reporters in the state of Florida that campaigned to preserve the bay. I don't know if you remember this, but there was at one point where tricky point is now there was a plan to put a giant oil refinery in the 1950s

00:26:00:19 - 00:26:22:05
Unknown
and dig a giant canal through the middle of the bay. There were plans to develop Elliott Quay and other things into new Miami beaches, and all those efforts to develop those fairly pristine islands and coastal wetlands were met with a great deal of resistance from people who just.

00:26:23:04 - 00:26:38:09
Unknown
Appreciated the natural beauty and opportunities that were right there on our doorstep. And so there was a lot of passion for the natural bay in this community. I think it exists now. But because it's preserved, it's a little bit different.

00:26:39:07 - 00:26:51:09
Unknown
I mean, you ever been out on lobster season, Oscar? You ever been out on lobster opening day? Regrettably, yes. It's not that close to that. I've done it a couple of times and I'm good. Yeah, well, many, many seasons.

00:26:51:22 - 00:27:00:13
Unknown
Many, many seasons. Right, right. Yeah. I used to I used to be a I used to be a regular. And it got to the point where it was it became so insane. But all those people love the bay.

00:27:01:03 - 00:27:18:07
Unknown
Okay. Miami is a it's an immigrant community. There's a lot of new, new people coming in every year and every decade. It's kind of a big population churn and the population continues to grow. How much of a challenge is it to get the word out to people who have recently moved here about the importance of Biscayne Bay

00:27:18:07 - 00:27:32:01
Unknown
and the importance of of protecting it and and to kind of get them to care. I know. I guess it's a big it's a it's a big challenge. I mean, I think there are probably some people who've lived here for a long time who also don't care.

00:27:33:23 - 00:27:54:18
Unknown
You know, you get people you get people popped for violating you know, for basically poaching undersized lobster and undersized fish. And sometimes they recently arrived here and they they don't understand the language of the rules. Other times they've been here a long time and it's kind of a side gig or they've just driven down from Alabama.

00:27:55:04 - 00:28:14:07
Unknown
So, you know, enforcing wildlife regulations, I think is difficult everywhere. And no matter what the you know, the makeup of the community is, I think part of it is in Biscayne Bay, there's just so much pressure because there are so many places you can access it.

00:28:16:00 - 00:28:37:21
Unknown
You know, there's boat ramps up and down the county. I mean, there's there's a bunch of places to put in. And and there's relatively little enforcement. The the staff at Biscayne National Park, although I haven't checked up on this in probably more than a decade, I mean, they had very few patrol boats.

00:28:37:21 - 00:28:56:10
Unknown
They didn't have a lot of people out there policing things and enforcing things. So I think and a lot of their focus in the last few years has been more about, you know, breaking up parties on on flats, you know, than than checking boats for undersized lobster and things like that.

00:28:56:11 - 00:29:14:24
Unknown
So there's there's all sorts of challenges. I think part of it is just, you know, do we devote enough resources to patrols and education? And we probably don't. Well, I mean, the fact that the Columbus Day regatta is on Biscayne Bay down in Biscayne National Park, I mean, talk about a party on a floating party out there

00:29:15:04 - 00:29:26:15
Unknown
that that I have done a few times. And it's, you know, on the on the good side, it gets people out there and it gets them swimming in the bay. And, you know, it makes them love the water, I guess.

00:29:27:02 - 00:29:42:10
Unknown
I guess the flipside is maybe it's a little bit over the top, a lot of boats out there. But, you know, I don't I think that I think that the more people who get out on the water and appreciate it, I think it builds up a community of support for the for the park.

00:29:42:14 - 00:29:57:10
Unknown
But what do you think? Well, for the. Yeah, again, I'm not sure how many. I know they're in the park which is one one of the problems I thought. Yeah. I mean, look, I mean, the pandemic has also, I think, renewed appreciation for the bay.

00:29:57:10 - 00:30:15:02
Unknown
I mean, Linda Robertson, one of our reporters, has done a piece about how now there's there's so many there's so many people out on jetskis that they're having conflicts with people who want to kayak and other boaters. So I think there's an appreciation.

00:30:15:02 - 00:30:37:20
Unknown
I don't know if people there's a certain contingent that uses Biscayne Bay that only cares about the surface. You know, where can I anchor my boat and have a party? Where can I Jetski? But then there is a smaller group that also cares about what's going on under the surface in terms of the health of the resource

00:30:37:20 - 00:30:51:21
Unknown
and the fish and everything else like that. But I mean, I think, again, I don't I haven't seen a survey, but I think I think most people who live here appreciate the bay in one way or other. I mean, it's right there on our again, it's our.

00:30:52:23 - 00:31:13:17
Unknown
It's what we see when we're driving down the road. And it's a backdrop. And I just I just love it. And I think I think Miami-Dade's done a pretty good job over the decades of. Of protecting it. But in the last decade, the explosion of growth and everything that we've had and maybe there's been some sort of

00:31:13:17 - 00:31:33:08
Unknown
tipping point that's been reached in sections of the bay. And the fact that the county has at least acknowledged it, you know, they appointed a Biscayne Bay czar, somebody who's supposed to irrelevant gay, who is supposed to kind of oversee and advocate for programs to assist the bay is a good thing.

00:31:33:22 - 00:31:45:20
Unknown
I don't know yet if it has made a difference or is going to make a difference, but it certainly is not going to hurt. You know, you mentioned earlier that Biscayne National Park is a huge national park. That's 90% water.

00:31:46:03 - 00:32:09:22
Unknown
And it's it's kind of the sandwich. And it's the other end of Everglades National Park. And Miami is the only urban community in the United States that is sandwiched between two national parks. And I think I mean, I think that Miami has the potential to be a radically environmentally conscious community because we have these national parks and

00:32:09:22 - 00:32:24:18
Unknown
because we're surrounded by them. And people fight these battles decades ago to preserve these places. Do you think that Miami's environmental spirit is on the rise there, environmentalist attitude? And how can how can we foster that? How can we make people care more?

00:32:26:02 - 00:32:42:21
Unknown
You know, honestly, Oscar, I don't know how to gauge that. I remember I recall surveys from time to time where they would ask locals if they'd been to the Everglades or Everglades National Park. And there was a shockingly high percentage of people who'd never.

00:32:44:01 - 00:32:58:20
Unknown
Quote, visited the park. And when you look at and again, this was a decade ago, I haven't looked at the statistics, but when you looked at park visitors. A huge number of them were from out of state or even out of the country.

00:32:59:06 - 00:33:14:19
Unknown
So I don't know how much appreciation there is for for these parks, I think. I think the people who do use them and love them are very, very passionate about it. It's almost like being a Florida Panthers hockey fan.

00:33:15:06 - 00:33:29:16
Unknown
You know, there's a small number of them, but they really love it. So but I agree with you that there's all sorts of potential to develop it. I think if you go down to the Keys. Because they are.

00:33:31:04 - 00:33:49:11
Unknown
They're completely surrounded by water and most of their tourism is built not on, on on clubs and parties, but on, you know, fishing and diving, that the keys has done a very good job of fostering that kind of awareness and appreciation.

00:33:49:11 - 00:34:10:10
Unknown
And I think some of it drifts up to to Miami. But I mean, you know, I think when people think of Miami from around the country, maybe even locally, I mean, they're thinking more of, again, South Beach and not South Biscayne Bay and looking looking to the future.

00:34:10:10 - 00:34:28:15
Unknown
What it's your job to foster the support? Oscar Well, people will be listening and they'll want to take an interest. Okay. Looking toward the future, Curtis what what are we looking out for in terms of policy and and issues that are going to affect the Biscayne Bay area?

00:34:28:15 - 00:34:45:23
Unknown
What you know, what do we look out for? What's the government plotting? What are what are developers planning? What's what's on the horizon for for the bay? I think the appointment of this Biscayne Bay chief and the fact that they've thrown a little bit of money towards studying what to do is a positive.

00:34:45:23 - 00:35:06:03
Unknown
So I think that the main things are going to be efforts to take out the worst septic tanks. There is a bill right now before the legislature, I might have mentioned this, to support the construction of this sewage treatment plant for Florida Power and Light.

00:35:06:14 - 00:35:29:12
Unknown
If that goes through, the county would be able to divert some of that stuff that they pump offshore. They wouldn't be pumping as much of that. But I don't I don't know exactly what's going to emerge. I think that that they're going to identify that the nutrients, the source of nutrients and the biggest problems of pollution for

00:35:29:23 - 00:35:48:01
Unknown
Biscayne Bay and figure out how to reduce those. That's about the best thing you can do. There's the park is also instituted some. Different rules for the size and number of fish that you can catch in an effort to restore the fish population.

00:35:48:01 - 00:36:07:07
Unknown
Some of the most popular fish that we all like, little snapper and grouper and yellowtail and things like that, have been really decimated in part from pollution, but more just from fishing pressure. So there's been some effort to kind of reduce the number and size of the takes and in an effort to kind of begin to revive

00:36:07:07 - 00:36:23:02
Unknown
those populations. And I think over the years they've been talk of no fishing zones which are used throughout the Florida Keys. They've they've got some areas like around Molasses Reef and some of the better reef areas where you are not allowed to catch spear or take any fish.

00:36:23:15 - 00:36:36:02
Unknown
And the theory is there that if those populations begin to recover, that fish will begin to disperse into broader areas. So there's been talk of that, but it hasn't yet happened in Biscayne Bay. There's been some political resistance to that.

00:36:37:00 - 00:36:45:17
Unknown
So, Curtis, what's your call to action? Tell people to get out in the bay. What would you tell people, even people who may not have means to buy a boat or or, you know, what would you tell people?

00:36:46:06 - 00:37:00:23
Unknown
Well, Oscar, my call to action is they should stay at home and leave the bay. To me, it's already too crowded. Spoken like a true fisherman. Okay. All right. Well, Curtis, this was a great conversation. Thanks for thanks for joining me today for the Nature of Florida podcast.

00:37:00:23 - 00:37:13:16
Unknown
Okay. It's an honor and my reporters are always available to you. Thanks. This episode of The Nature of Florida podcast was brought to you in part by the Everglades Foundation, the Fairburn Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Expliquer Media.

00:37:13:21 - 00:37:26:10
Unknown
If you're enjoying this podcast, remember to subscribe on our website, The Nature of Florida with Oscar Corral The Best Outcome. That's the nature of Florida with Oscar Corral, Douglas, Broadcom. Or find us on your favorite platform and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.