The Tarpon River has received a makeover. The city recently completed a dredging project in a stretch of the river in Rio Vista that aimed to remove sediment in the river. After four months of work, the project was recently declared complete.
City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen, a Rio Vista resident, praised the city and local company ATL, which did the dredging work, as a positive example of the public and private sectors working together to get things done quickly. “This is how we get good stuff done in government,” Sorensen says. “It’s the right model.”
The project was completed as the city continues with a series of improvements to its waterways and infrastructure, much of which was begun after the catastrophic sewer line breaks of 2020. Recent and current projects include everything from new sewer lines to taller and improved seawalls.
This project involved four months of hydraulic and mechanical dredging that got rid of 2,000 cubic yards of sediment along 800 feet of the river on either side of the SE Ninth Avenue Bridge in Rio Vista. Sorensen says that in order to restore the river to health as fully as possible, they took out more sediment than was actually required. “We doubled the scope of the project,” he says.
According to the city, oxygen levels have been rising and bacterial counts falling since mid-2020.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sediment is the most common pollutant in rivers and other freshwater bodies of water. While some sediment is natural, most is the result of construction activities, according to the EPA. It affects water quality, including smell, and plant and animal life in waterways.
The project involved crews pumping sediment into massive bags on barges where the sediment was trapped and the de-silted water disinfected before being returned to the river. It’s the sort of project that’s loud, that cuts off the river and requires boats to be moved, and that tends to smell like rotten eggs. It’s not the sort of project that happens with no disruption to a neighborhood, although ATL project manager Clinton Hodges says they tried to design the project so that there was minimal disruption. And in the end, several months of disruption is worth a cleaner river, Sorensen says.
“The lifeblood of Fort Lauderdale is our environment, our waterways,” Sorensen says.
Other ongoing or planned projects in the city include:
• The massive Seven Neighborhood Stormwater Improvements Project, which includes stormwater improvements in the Edgewood, Victoria Park, River Oaks, Durrs, Dorsey Riverbend, South East Isles and Progresso Village neighborhoods, which are the Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods most severely impacted by flooding. Improvements meant to reduce flooding in River Oaks; the project began earlier this year and is expected to be completed in 2024.
• A planned new water treatment plant to replace the city’s nearly 70-year-old Fiveash facility, which Mayor Dean Trantalis once described as “held together by spit and chewing gum.”
• Various seawall improvement and replacement projects, including the Hendricks Isle seawall replacement project that is due to be completed by the end of October. The project includes the construction of two new seawalls and stormwater infrastructure.