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Braden River Fish Decline


There has been a significant decline in fish populations in the Braden River located in Manatee County, Florida. An immediate investigation of the causes of these declines is needed.
A priority in managing the Braden River should be protecting essential habitat values and maintaining and improving a productive aquatic community. The lack of historical water quality data and the lack of a plan to collect future water quality data for the Braden River is a significant issue. 
Several factors may have caused a decline in fish populations. Each needs to be investigated to determine an appropriate course of action to take.
Post Braden River Bridge Construction at 44th Avenue
Accelerated bridge construction was approved to speed up the bridge permitting process to expedite growth and development in the area. As a result, less attention was given to the environmental impacts associated with the bridge crossing the Braden River.

Safeguarding against potential river impacts should have been a top priority in building the bridge.

Since the bridge was built, it has allowed for a different type of pollution to enter the Braden River. Stormwater runoff has likely impacted the environment by introducing toxins, petroleum, and heavy metals that were never introduced into the River before. 

Pollution associated with increased traffic and run-off has increased over time and will likely be much greater than was anticipated. 
Gap Creek Dump located south of State Road 70
Gap Creek flows west into the Braden River. The Braden River empties into the Manatee River Estuary on the eastern boundary of Bradenton.

The stream was verified as impaired for fecal coliform and was included on the Verified List of impaired waters in 2004. Since 2004, insufficient data has been collected to assess the nonpoint sources of fecal coliform with great certainty.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, “sources such as leaking sewer lines, lawn irrigation, and wildlife could be important contributors to the exceedances in the creek, more comprehensive studies need to be conducted to pinpoint the major contributor(s) of fecal coliforms in the Gap Creek watershed. “

In addition to elevated levels of fecal coliforms, numerous toxic compounds may persist in the illegal Gap Creek dump. The dump was closed prior to 1980 and was, therefore, exempt from current landfill regulations. A liner was installed on top of the closed landfill; however, all liners leak over time. 
The previously buried waste may leach into the underlying groundwater or nearby streams. The presence of toxic compounds needs to be promptly identified. Gap Creek needs to be restored to comply with state water quality standards with a clear margin of safety as required by the federal Clean Water Act. 

An investigation in the watershed of Gap Creek should be conducted to determine any source or content of toxic compounds, after which the appropriate steps can be taken to end the contamination and restore the creek. 

Land Use Changes in the Watershed

It is highly likely that land use changes within the Braden River watershed associated with agricultural operations and increased residential and commercial development have impaired the Braden River’s water quality. A review of the anticipated future land use changes in the watershed is needed. 
Adequate funding, subsequent monitoring and enforcement of existing water quality regulations is vital to the success of restoring the Braden River. 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Transportation, and the Manatee County Environmental Protection Division need to coordinate and implement a recovery strategy for the Braden River. We should expect nothing less from those agencies responsible for overseeing the health and well-being of the waters of the State of Florida.

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.


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