Big Fishweir Creek project shows signs of progress

Jacksonville District
Published Dec. 8, 2016
A view of the Big Fishweir Creek project area.

A view of the Big Fishweir Creek project area.

The Big Fishweir Creek project is moving forward after the City of Jacksonville recently approved funding for the Corps to execute a project partnership agreement and initiate the design and implementation phase of the project.

The Corps will receive approximately $1-million, making way for the project to move towards eventual construction.

“This is a good news story for the Jacksonville community and for residents who have anticipated this project for so long,” said Program Manager Jim Suggs. “We are making progress and are confident we will see the completed project within the next few years.”

Under the tentative schedule, residents could see construction of the project in 2019. It will take up to six months to finalize the report, and at least a year to complete the detailed design of the project.

Big Fishweir Creek is an urban tributary of the St. Johns River, located approximately 4 miles south of downtown Jacksonville. The creek enters the St. Johns River (An American Heritage River) just north of the Ortega River, and is considered Essential Fish Habitat.

Due to urbanization, including encroachment along the banks of the creek, sediments transported by storm events have covered the natural creek bottom. This has caused a degradation of the natural habitat of the creek and creek banks. Big Fishweir Creek is classified by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) as a Florida Class III Waterbody. In short, a Class III Waterbody should be “Swimmable and Fishable.”

The project will restore healthy aquatic habitat in the creek by providing ecological benefits including: the removal of sediment, restoration of habitat for manatees and other native species, removal of exotic vegetation, restoration of submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation, and restoration of wetlands.

The most notable benefit of the plan is the restoration of suitable habitat for the federally endangered manatee. Re-establishment of deep stream channels will once again allow manatee access and assist them in migration.

Deepened channels will benefit overall water quality by providing an avenue for tidal flushing needed to stabilize and correct salinity levels.

Construction of a marsh island will re-establish lost marsh area, provide wildlife habitat, reduce turbidity, provide foraging for manatees, and reduce restoration costs by providing an on-site disposal for dredge materials.

Reconnecting the wetlands will provide better comprehensive fish habitat by improving overall water quality.