In January 2020, Sarasota County, with partners SBEP, City of Sarasota, and the Sarasota County School Board, and funding partner Southwest Florida Water Management District completed the Hudson Bayou In-Stream Restoration and Water Quality Improvements project. This initiative integrated multiple habitat and water quality improvement features into two main canals of Hudson Bayou located at Sarasota High School. In December 2019, the project was awarded Public Works Project of the Year for the environmental category by the American Public Works Association (APWA) Suncoast Chapter.
This seven year project aimed to enhance stormwater drainage and storage, reduce pollutant and sediment loading, preserve tree islands, and improve native habitat. Partners started the planning process in December of 2013. By May 2019, all funds were secured to begin construction. The final elements were completed in January 2020.
Habitat and Water Quality Improvement Components
1. Parking Drainage & Bioswale
Stormwater runoff from the parking lot was rerouted by two drainage structures into a bioswale for treatment.
2. Exotic Vegetation Removal
Five large (60-in diameter) Australian pines, Brazilian pepper, carrotwood, and invasive vines were removed.
A skimmer structure was installed in the south branch of the bayou to capture floating litter.
4. Slope Restoration & Upland Planting
Canal banks were restored and planted to help filter water and improve habitat.
5. Vegetative Filter Marsh
A new channel and filter marsh were created off the south branch of the bayou to further treat stormwater and enhance the wetland system.
6. Tree Island Preservation
Restoration routed canals around existing trees for habitat preservation.
7. Sediment Sump and Dredge Silt Removal
A sump was created to collect sediment for periodic removal.
8. Natural Buffer Area
Native Florida plants were installed along the bayou shoreline to help filter pollutants and provide habitat.
The enhancements help treat upstream runoff from 973 acres, or about 40% of the Hudson Bayou watershed. All together, the water quality treatments are estimated to remove about 25% of total nitrogen and 67% of total suspended solids annually.
This collaborative project not only offers benefits to our local waterways and bay habitats, but its location at Sarasota High School provides educational opportunities for students to learn about real world watershed management efforts. A big thank you and congratulations to all partners involved in this effort!
Photo Credits: Sarasota County and American Public Works Association