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 the management of the Braden River should be the protection of essential habitat values and the maintenance
and improvement of 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
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
Safeguarding against potential river impacts should have been a top priority in building the bridge. Since the bridge
has been built, it has allowed for a different type of pollution to enter the Braden River. Stormwater runoff likely has
impacted the environment with the introduction of toxins, petroleum's and heavy metals which 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
Gap Creek flows west into the Braden River. The Braden River empties into the Manatee River Estuary on the eastern boundary
The stream was verified as impaired for fecal coliform and was included on the Verified List of impaired waters in 2004.
Since 2004, not enough data has not been collects 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 be persistent 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 be leaching 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, increased
residential and commercial development, have impaired the Braden Rivers 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 recover strategy for the Braden River. We should expect nothing less from those agencies
responsible for the oversight of the health and well-being of the waters of the State of Florida.