The waters behind and adjacent to the Deering Estate are part of a system of 41 protected aquatic preserves around the state managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas. Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve provides habitat for a wide variety of juvenile and adult marine species including several of Florida’s imperiled species, such as the west Indian manatee, the smalltooth sawfish, the American crocodile, and Johnson’s seagrass. Seagrass beds, especially along the shores of the Deering Estate, are prime feeding areas for wading birds and a valuable nursery area for juvenile fish and invertebrates, including many of commercial interest.
These habitats need fresh water to maintain appropriate salinity levels for species and ecosystem functions to survive. Restoration efforts onsite, part of a greater Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, seek to improve the availability of freshwater to coastal habitats, improving the habitat health while offsetting impacts of sea level rise. The Deering Estate Flow-way/Cutler Slough Rehydration Project is a part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan/Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project. Engineers and biologists from the South Florida Water Management District conduct regular soil, water, species, and vegetation monitoring of the Deering Estate. This site specific reconciliation ecology effort is an active model to test theories quantity, quality, distribution and timing of water flow that help inform Everglades restoration efforts and South Florida Water Management operations throughout the region.
Like Everglades restoration, the Cutler Slough Rehydration Project helps restore seasonal water flow into an historic slough (a freshwater wetland habitat) that once existed at the Deering Estate, before the local canal systems were built. This scale model of Everglades restoration redistributes water from the South Florida Water Management flood protection canals via a spur canal and pumping station. The slow moving water is then naturally filtered as it travels through the Deering Estate’s habitats and out to Biscayne Bay in a more ecologically beneficial sheet flow manner. Components of the project include a restored educational wetland, pump station and spreader located just west of Old Cutler Road and a weir placed in Cutler Creek to prevent salt water intrusion. More than 62,000 acre per feet of freshwater redirected to historic wetlands through the natural habitats on the Deering Estate since the project completed in the Spring of 2013. K-12 students as well as residents of all ages have been engaged in the habitat monitoring and data collection as part of a citizen science program – to encourage greater understanding, support, and advocacy of natural areas and restoration projects worldwide, with emphasis on understanding wetland habitats and water conservation in a local/regional context.
The Cutler Slough Rehydration Project is overseen by the South Florida Water Management District through a cooperative agreement with Environmentally Endangered Lands, Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, and the Deering Estate.
To learn more about their efforts to restore natural water flow to the Cutler area and beyond, click below: