Building better barriers

Here in the sunshine state, water and sand are two necessary features cherished by all.

Both components of erosion, these coastal forces are an important issue for one of Florida’s main tourist attractions.

The state of Florida is working to ensure that contractors and developers take proper steps to safeguard the environment surrounding construction sites from runoff and sediments. However, the state is not doing enough. Current methods are not reliable or effective. There should be greater requirements and incentives for contractors to ensure proper installation of current barriers and immediate research to develop new, more effective environmental barriers.

When a new development is constructed, there will likely be silt fence barriers, especially around new retention ponds. The silt fence is designed to separate the sediment from the water in order to combat erosion.

Another barrier, called the turbidity barrier, is supposed to contain sediments in water and can be recognized by a floating bright yellow net. Like the silt fence, this barrier slows the flow of water, allowing for the sediment to settle underwater. These types of barriers are typically found around bridges, seawalls or canal construction.

The state requires some contractors to put these (or other even less effective) devices in place depending on established criteria. Installation can be difficult with either barrier, and if the barriers are installed incorrectly, they will generally fail, leading to more erosion.

Even when properly installed, there are a lot of variables, such as the weather and water flow, that can weigh in on the effectiveness of the barriers. The floating barriers have the potential to create problems for fish and wildlife accustomed to traveling a path occupied by the barrier. Most floating turbidity barriers are designed to offer some room for animals to pass, but not always.

Equally disturbing is the fact that these barriers are never removed after construction is completed. Many times they are left behind, and because they’re made from plastic, they will take ages to degrade.

Widespread erosion can cause flooding, lowered water quality and decreases in soil quality. These effects also potentially hold drastic secondary repercussions for fish and wildlife, agriculture and tourism.

From the natural springs in North Florida to the coral reefs of the Keys, this state is blessed with some of the most diverse and beautiful water environments in the country. Let’s keep it that way through effective management.