Cub Scouts of Pack 512 from Pompano Beach, FL helped to fill 500 sandbags for use in the Shark Valley Tram Road Culvert Plugging Project (SVTRCPP). Thanks to these hardworking scouts, the sandbags were installed in the culverts of the Shark Valley Tram Road in an effort to protect endangered species last year.
The SVTRCPP is designed to manage the flow of water into the area of Everglades National Park (ENP) west of the Tram Road, to help protect a sub-population of the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow from high water levels. Water management operations at the northern boundary of the park are designed in part to balance the needs of the Sparrow with those of the endangered Everglades Snail Kite, which is found in the state Water Conservation Area (WCA) just north of the park. Too much water in the WCA is bad for the Kite; too much in this northwestern part of the park is bad for the Sparrow.
Large structures release water from the WCA into the northern edge of ENP. Most of the water is released during the rainy season; however recent changes in operations will increase flow into the area east of the Shark Valley Tram Road during the drier winter and spring months when the Sparrow nests. The lower water levels that result north of the park will be beneficial for the Snail Kite. However, if water levels are high enough in the park, the additional water may flow west through the culverts under the tram road and disrupt the nesting sparrows. In order to optimize conditions for both bird species, removable sand bags will be used to block 74 culverts along the western side of the Tram Road throughout the year in order to prevent the westerly flow of water.
Installation of the sandbags was completed during the dry season in 2013. Park hydrologists periodically monitor the condition of the sandbags and water levels in the area to better understand how flow under the tram road affects the local hydrology.
Next week, read about the volunteers who helped earlier this month on the continuation of this project, Volunteers Help Protect Endangered Birds, part 2