Water-Related News

Fixes Bring McKay Bay to Life

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By Yvette C. Hammette

TAMPA - East of downtown, past the cruise ships and dry docks, an appendage of Tampa Bay is bustling with construction.

McKay Bay is under renovation. When the work is complete, the drab reminder of reckless 1960s development again will provide suitable habitat for fish and wading birds.

The recontoured shoreline, with a new skirt of native grasses and mangroves, will help cleanse runoff headed from Palm River into the bay.

And a massive dredge hole at McKay Bay's center — it provided foundation material for Davis Islands and house foundations — will be filled in and ready to converge again with nearby mud flats. The Southwest Florida Water Management District, knows as Swiftmud, and the Tampa Port Authority are working together to complete the restoration projects.

At the mouth of Palm River, channelized and dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers a half century ago, thousands of invasive trees such as Brazilian pepper have been removed. A tidal pool being created there will provide habitat for aquatic creatures and plants, and 35 acres of restored uplands will be an agreeable environment for birds.

"The poor water quality in the estuary is due to the intense industrial and residential development in the McKay Bay watershed," said Kris Kaufman, an environmental scientist with the state's Surface Water Improvement and Management program. "Stormwater runoff and sediment contamination … have both contributed to poor water quality."

The SWIM scientists work in conjunction with the water management district.