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Water Flows and Nutrient Fluxes to the Southwest Coast of Everglades National Park, Florida

Project Proposal for 1999

Project number: 61400
USGS Geologic Division
Continuing Project Work Plan -- FY 1999

Project title: Water and nutrient flows to the southwest coast of Everglades National Park, Florida
Geographic area: Southwest coastal estuaries of Everglades National Park (Broad, Haney, and Shark Rivers)
Project start date: October 1995
Project end date: September 2002

Project chief: Victor A. Levesque
Region/Division/Team/Section: SE/WRD/SWFL
Email: levesque@usgs.gov
Phone: 813-884-9336 extension 167
Fax: 813-889-9811
Mail address: U.S. Geological Survey,  4710 Eisenhower Blvd., B-5
Tampa, FL 33634

Program: South Florida Ecosystem Initiative

Program element: 4. Ecological and Geological Studies of southwest florida
Program task: 4.2 Water and nutrient flows to the southwest coast of Everglades National Park, Florida. This task quantifies the volume of water and nutrient concentrations being discharged from three estuarine rivers located along the southwest coast of Everglades National Park, Florida.

Project summary:
    This study will quantify water discharge and nutrient fluxes of three estuarine rivers of southwest Everglades National Park. The estuary of southwest Everglades National Park (ENP) is a unique and diverse part of the south Florida ecosystem. The estuarine ecosystem provides and maintains habitat for an abundance of marine and terrestrial animals and plants. Three estuarine-river sites were selected by the criteria that a large amount of the water that flows through Shark River Slough, sometimes referred to as the 'Heart of the Everglades', must pass through these sites. The discharge stations were installed at the selected sites from October to December 1996. Discharge data collection at the stations began in January 1997, and water quality data collection began in February 1997. The results of the study will provide information on trends, effects of weather systems, and a part of the overall interpretation of how Everglades restoration affects the estuarine ecosystem. Data from the study is planned to be used for input to a circulation model. The results of the study will provide information that can be useful in understanding and preserving the estuarine ecosystem.

Project objectives and strategy:
    The objectives of the study are to provide data and interpretations about water flow and nutrient fluxes from the Broad, Harney, and Shark Rivers. The study will provide information on the hydraulics of the three rivers and the determination of relations between up-gradient hydrologic conditions and the estuarine hydrologic conditions.
    Three tidally-affected river stations were selected because the locations are estimated to receive the largest amount of water from the Shark River Slough drainage basin. The stations in the estuarine area were selected based on published literature and aerial photographs. The stations have been installed with sensors that measure water velocity, water level, near-surface and bottom water temperature, and specific conductance. Water samples are collected at the three stations, and the samples are analyzed for total and dissolved nitrogen concentrations, and total and dissolved phosphorus concentrations.
    Upward looking acoustic Doppler profile sensors collect continuous-river-velocity data, vented-pressure-transducers collect continuous-water-level data, and four-electrode-conductance sensors collect continuous-temperature and specific conductance data. Monthly station visits include collection of water-quality samples, measurement of river discharge, and maintenance and calibration of station sensors.
The acoustic-discharge measurements and the continuous sensor data are used to develop velocity-stage-discharge relations for each river. The velocity-stage-discharge relations are then used to compute continuous-river-discharge data for each river. Nutrient fluxes are computed from the river-discharge data and the water-quality data. Residual discharge and nutrient flux data are estimated by applying a low-pass digital filter to the instantaneous data. Analytical and statistical methods are used to correlate meteorological data, up-gradient water-levels, discharge, and water-quality data with filtered estuarine-river discharges and nutrient fluxes.
    Data collected for this study are maintained by personnel from the U.S. Geological Survey Tampa, FL. The data are stored and analyzed in the USGS Automated Data Processing System (ADAPS). Documentation associated with data maintenance and supplemental data are stored at the USGS office in Tampa, FL. The data are available on a conditional basis during the study and will be available as final after receiving USGS District approval. A report will be published in FY 1999 that will summarize the interpretations from this study.

Potential impacts and major products:
This study will provide data and interpretation about instantaneous and residual water flow and nutrient fluxes from the Broad, Haney, and Shark Rivers. The quantification of the estuaryís water flow and nutrient fluxes is basic information needed by scientists and resource managers. Scientists and resource managers also need to understand how the up-gradient land, water, and habitat management practices are affecting this part of the ecosystem, because the vitality of the marine ecosystem is also dependent on the quantity and quality of water it receives from the Shark River Slough. Monitoring the estuarine ecosystem is necessary to accurately assess the effects of Everglades flow distribution and hydroperiod modifications and to understand the effects of routine resource operations. The data from this study also will be used in understanding the hydraulics and habitat dynamics of the estuarine ecosystem. The results of this study will be published in a U.S. Geological Survey publication.

Collaborators, clients:

Cooperation and coordination with ENP personnel are needed for acquiring up-gradient water level, water quality, and rainfall data. Renewal of data-collection permits from ENP personnel are required every year. Cooperation with ENP personnel also is required for the use of ENP facilities in Flamingo. Other data required for this study will be provided by USGS personnel located in ENP, Miami, and Ft. Myers.

Organization and contacts Duties and interests

Everglades National Park (ENP)
Dewitt Smith Scientific studies in the estuarine areas of ENP.
Discharge data and nutrient flux data not available in this area since 1960s.
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)  
David Rudnick Estuarine water quality studies.
Study results will assist the District in understanding the effects of Everglades restoration.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)  
Allette Karavitis Data base management.
Setup and maintenance of updates to the Internet site.
Eduardo Patino Hydrologist, study of flows to Florida Bay.
Synthesis of flow study data.
Gordon Anderson Hydrologist, study of estuarine habitat and pore water dynamics.
Hydraulics and nutrient flux.
Thomas Smith Biologist, study of estuarine habitat dynamics.
Hydraulics and nutrient flux.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  
Thomas Lee Oceanographer, near shore and long shore current studies.
Hydraulics and nutrient flux.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)  
Mark Dortch Hydrologist, model development.
Hydraulics and nutrient flux.
University of Southwest Louisiana (USWL)  
Robert Twilley Biologists, study of estuarine habitat dynamics.
Victor Rivera Hydraulics and nutrient flux.


Time line (FY 1999 to project end):
1. Complete draft report summarizing methods and results and submit report for colleague review. (Levesque)
2. Complete revisions to report. (Levesque)
3. Submit revised report for approval. (Levesque)
4. Complete final version of report. (Levesque)
5. Publish report summarizing methods and results.
6. Continue monitoring at existing stations. (Boetcher)
7. Install monitoring stations in headwaters of Tarpon Bay and Whitewater Bay. (Boetcher)
1. Continue monthly station visits. (Levesque)
2. Process and analyze data. (Levesque)
1. Continue monthly station visits. (Levesque)
2. Process and analyze data. (Levesque)
3. Develop velocity-stage-discharge relations for new stations. (Levesque)
4. Begin writing report on flow and nutrient data for ENP. (Levesque and Patino)
1. Remove stations from Everglades National Park. (Boetcher)
2. Finish writing report on flow and nutrient data for ENP. (Levesque and Patino)
3. Publish report on flow and nutrient data for ENP.

FY 1999 activities:
    The majority of work undertaken in FY1999 is related to completing and publishing a report as described in the Time line. The report will detail the methods used and the results from the study. Two or three additional stations will be installed at rivers in the headwaters of Tarpon Bay and Whitewater Bay.

FY 1999 deliverables/products:
    Data from the study will continue to be available to scientists-and managers for research and planning purposes. A USGS report will be published that summarizes the study methods and results.

FY 1999 outreach:
    Hydrologic data collected from this study have been made available at a USGS web site (gissfltlh.er.usgs.gov/local/exchange/levesque). The web site has been set up and is currently maintained by USGS personnel in Ft. Myers and Tallahassee, FL. A continuing collaboration with Everglades National Park personnel provides an additional pathway for the distribution of the data and results for this study. Collaboration will continue with scientists from other USGS offices, University of Southwest Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA. A presentation is planned for interested scientists and managers at Everglades National Park near the end of  FY1999.

New directions or major changes for FY 1999:

    Data collected for a long period are more desirable than data collected for a short period, because climatic patterns may be anomalous during the monitored period and may significantly bias the results of a short-period study. The continuation of the existing stations can be used to observe how restoration affects the deliveries and quality of water reaching the estuaries of the southwest coast of Everglades National Park.
    Two or three more discharge stations are proposed to be added to the current network of three stations. One or two discharge stations are proposed to be in the headwaters of Tarpon Bay and one additional discharge station added in Whitewater Bay. The new stations would be installed and operated similar to the existing stations. The discharge stations added in the headwaters of Tarpon Bay would be evaluated as discharge and water quality index stations for the three existing stations. If the headwater stations can be used as discharge indexes for the Broad, Harney, and Shark River stations, it may be possible to discontinue one or more stations on the Broad, Haney, or Shark Rivers after an evaluation period. The addition of a station in a major tributary of Whitewater Bay would be used to quantify flows and nutrient fluxes from the Shark River Slough that are not measured by the existing stations.
    The continuation of the three existing stations and addition of 2 or 3 more stations is encouraged and would be a significant benefit for the Everglades National Park (ENP) monitoring program, the U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystem Initiative, and other scientific agencies. The data and interpretations provided by this study will continue to enhance the understanding and knowledge about the southwest coast of ENP.
At this time, there are no other studies of water discharge and nutrient fluxes being conducted in this area of ENP. The southwest coast of ENP represents a large gap in hydrologic data, and presents a significant logistical challenge due to the remoteness of the area. The USGS has succeeded in gaging three of the main outflows on the southwest coast that receive water from the Shark River Slough drainage area. The continuation and expansion of this study is needed to assess the short- and long-term trends, effects of unusual weather patterns and storm events, and the effects Everglades restorations have on the estuarine ecosystem.

FY 1998 accomplishments and outcomes, including outreach:
1. Monthly station visits continued to maintain stations.
2. Velocity-stage-discharge relations were finalized.
3. Data processing and data analysis continued.
4. Synopsis report of work completed to date submitted for approval.
5. Report writing continued.
FY 1998 deliverables, products completed:
1. Continuous sensor data made available to the public.
2. Continuous discharge data computed and made available to the public.
3. Work plan for FY1999 submitted for approval.
4. Summary of results provided to Everglades National Park personnel.


Names and expertise of key project staff:
FY96, FY97, FY98, FY99, FY2000, FY2001, FY2002
Victor Levesque (Hydrologist, estuarine hydraulics) Kathi Hammett (Surface Water Specialist)
Paul Boetcher (Hydrologic Technician) Yvonne Stoker (Water Quality Specialist)

Other required expertise for which no individual has been identified:
FY99, FY2002
Publication review. Report layout and printing.

Major equipment/facility needs:
FY96, FY97, FY98, FY98, FY99, FY2000, FY2001, FY2002
Research vessel. Various electronic equipment.
ENP research houseboat and marine facilities.

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