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Floodgates open as South Florida readies for tropical depression

HIALEAH, Fla. – With a tropical depression approaching and wet weather in the weekend forecast, the South Florida Water Management District was working Friday to bring the water level down in canals to mitigate flooding.

“As we speak we have gates open, pumps working,” spokesman Randy Smith said. “And we are pushing water out of these canals out into the Intercoastal and the Atlantic Ocean.”

Smith says they start the process of making room in South Florida’s vast canal network because when the rain comes “that water is going to run off our streets, our yards, parking lots, into the canals and we will continue to push that out.”

Tropical Depression Nineteen is forecasted to bring downpours to the area, particularly Saturday morning. There’s a chance it could strengthen into a tropical storm.

“We don’t wait until the water starts falling from the sky when you have a forecast like this with considerable rainfall,” Smith said.

These canal lowerings can also have an impact on Biscayne Bay.

“When the water levels in the canals are lowered, this can mean more water is moved into the bay. Biscayne Bay needs freshwater, but canal water can have high nutrient and bacteria levels because they pass through urban areas on their way to the bay,” explained Kelly Cox, general counsel at Miami Waterkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group. “This is still being studied, but we do know that the fish kill event from last month coincided with higher flows of water from the Little River — 3.5 times the 10-year average since May.

"Another, more nuanced observation being studied is that as canal levels drop, flows from groundwater could also increase. We know that our groundwater can act as a conduit for nutrient-rich water (from sources like septic for example). So, when the canals drop, it could also increase the likelihood of groundwater flowing into the canals and out to the bay. This, of course, depends on the levels of the groundwater relative to the water level of the canal — but, just another factor to consider.”

ICYMI: Local 10′s special “Saving Biscayne Bay” tackled the issues facing the bay last week


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