Collier County plans effort to restore natural water flow

Collier County said it has a plan to restore the natural water flow in certain areas of the county. It will focus on three areas — Naples Bay, Rookery Bay and the Bell Meade area.

The plan: When there’s excess water in Golden Gate canal, they’ll pump three swimming pools worth of water per minute to Naples and Rookery bays via Picayune Strand State Forest.

While canals give more options for homeowners, the county said those waterways change how fresh water moves, and that impacts water quality.

“It’s about time that they do this,” Bill Morrow said.

The county is revisiting its plan to change the way freshwater naturally flows to bays and estuaries.

“It looks like this time they’re putting their best foot forward,” Morrow said.

The county said building canals over several decades has changed the way water is filtered and drains into bigger bodies of water. That has a dramatic impact on water quality.

“Structures are already here,” Jim McAveeney said. “You can’t undo it, but we’ve got to protect and control what is left of our mangroves and all the natural filtration in order protect our wetlands.”

The county is proposing a way to rebalance freshwater flows and restore our watersheds.

“If we can redirect water to filter it naturally, I think that will go a long way to protect the ecosystem,” McAveeney said.

The county said this will not only help hydrate the Picayune Strand; it will improve water quality and habitat in Naples Bay and Rookery Bay.

Because Naples Bay is getting too much fresh water, it negatively affects oysters, and oysters help filter water. On the other hand, Rookery Bay is not getting enough fresh water, which hurts the growth of mangroves, and mangroves help filter water.

“I think anything the county can do to improve water quality, residents would greatly appreciate that,” McAveeney said.

But opposition may come from property owners in the line of the water flow. The county is discussing incentives to those who offer their land to help in the process.

To get more information, there’s a meeting on this project tomorrow night from 6 to 8 p.m. at South Regional Public Library off Lely Cultural Parkway.

Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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