SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. The climate of Collier County is classified as
humid-subtropical, and evaporation and transpiration losses
exceed rainfall in many years. Consequently, drought condi-
tions in many parts of the County are averted only by the
storage of water in shallow, sand-filled basins during wetter
years. If the integrity of these basins is destroyed by deep
canalization, the water reserve is rapidly lost.
2. There seem to have been three separable periods
of water level conditions in the County. The first, and
original condition, probably ended with channelization of the
Caloosahatchee River during the period 1898-1917 or thereabouts,
and early drainage in the Everglades. The second probably
occurred between 1920 and 1955 with construction of the
Tamiami Trail Canal, the Barron River Canal and the Turner
River Canal. The third period was married by the elaboration
of interior farm drainage canals, the Greater Naples road
net, each with its own canal system, and, finally, the Golden
Gate Canal network completed in 1969.
3. Original and phase two drainage may have lowered
rainy season surface flood depths by from 1 to 4 feet,
depending on the area considered. Rotting cypress knees 6 to 8
or more feet high are still to be found in the Fahkahatchee and
Picayune strands. These have traces of water marks at 4 to 6
feet above the present ground level.
4. Prior to construction of the Golden Gate and
Fahka-Union canals flood depth in the Golden Gate "Highlands"
(a large land area of shallow sands underlain by impervious
caprock in the northwest quadrant of the Golden Gate Estates
area; Figure 10) pine and dwarf cypress averaged 7 inches.
Flooding is estimated to have been greater in the southern
Golden Gate tract, averaging 24 inches above ground level
near Lynch Boulevard.
5. These depths are still reached briefly during
heavy rain periods but the duration of flooding (i.e. the
Shydroperiod) has been reduced to a maximum of 2 months in
the Golden Gate "Highlands" and 3 months in the lower,
southern reaches of the Golden Gate system. Prior to
digging of the Golden Gate canal system we estimate that
the hydroperiod persisted for 3 to 4 months on the Golden
Gate "Highlands" and for 5 to 7 months in the deeper strands
in dry and wet years, respectively.
6. Recharge of the shallow aquifer under the Golden
Gate "Highlands" has probably always been very limited because
of the presence of dense near-surface caprock layers under or
overlain by dense marl and clay. Furthermore, existing
drainage canals have probably reduced the rate of downward
infiltration even further by reducing the residence time of
water in the sand-filled basins.
7. Before drainage we suspect that the minor water-
sheds originating along the southwestern perimeter of the
Golden Gate "Highlands" produced much less runoff, in the
order of 10 times less, than is now discharged into Naples
Bay by the Golden Gate Canal.
8. The Golden Gate "Highlands" seems clearly
separable, from a hydrologic standpoint, from areas to the
east where the major cypress strands are located. East of
a line drawn between Bird Rookery Strand and Collier-Seminole
State Park we suspect that solution (karstification) has
formed numerous rock-cut channels on the surface and under
ground. Although filled with sand, many of these old channels
are probably still functional in channeling flow first south
and thence southeast into the Picayune strand. Furthermore,
we believe that the strand system is virtually open to recharge
i of deeper' cavernous strata, while the adjacent Golden Gate
"Highlands" is closed. Thus, the cypress and mixed swamp
forests lying generally east of Everglades Boulevard and south
of S. R. 84 are the major areas in which ground water recharge
9. There is evidence that low rock ridges., for
example the one running north to south between the Fahkahatchee
Strand and the Picayune Strand, are effective barriers confining
water to respective basins. Canals which cut through these
basin rims and into the inter-basin sands which act as surface
storage reservoirs can cause excessive sub-surface drainage
of areas widely removed from the canals themselves.
10. For about 7 months of the year the water.table
within the Golden Gate Estates is now below the caprock, thus
breaking capillarity with the overlying sands which.form the
rooting substratum for plants of the region. Drainage of such
sands by canalization .is rapid; hence the observed symptoms
of a changed water budget: increased poil dryness, more
frequent and severe wildfires, and change from scrub cypress
dominance in the deeper sands to pine and panicum grasslands.
11. The existing canal and weir system is unable to
compensate for either drought or flood conditions and will
continue to magnify the former. By cutting the rock rims of
shallow sand basins and by drawing off afterr from porous
strata beneath the caprock the canals .impede aquifer-recharge.
12. The Fahka Union canal system, by rapidly dis-
charging large volumes of water into Fahka Union Bay, has
caused large variation in salinity, increased sedimentation,
and a measurable reduction of marine resources valuable to
man (Carter et al., 1973). The effects of Golden Gate canal
discharge into Naples Bay are probably similar, although not
13. The potential for salt water contamination of
the shallow aquifer is-high, although ,little evidence of such
a happening is at present available. The deep Floridian
aquifer and the Gulf of Mexico are the primary sources of
Ssaline waters, which can be expected to intrude further upon
freshwater supply areas in response to continued reduction
of fresh water head. Further saline intrusion can be prevented
by a reduction in runoff rate and consequent freshwater storage.
14. If no further action is taken, all lands within
the Golden Gate system will experience repeated wildfires,
leading eventually to further severe loss of organic soils
and an almost total extermination of the mixed forest species
and the pineland systems. These communities will be replaced
by shrubs and seasonal herbs and grasses, which will themselves
be burned repeatedly. Most wildlife species and all epiphytes
would be lost. At the same time valuable fresh water will
continue to be wasted seaward instead of percolating vertically
into sub-surface storage, from which it can be withdrawn for
urban and agricultural uses.
15. A restoration of the hydroperiod to a duration
of approximately 5 months, and maintenance of the dry season
water table no more than 2 feet below ground surface would
allow relatively rapid recovery of most areas south of S. R. 84.
The plant succession, currently interrupted by drought and
severe fires, would proceed within 25 years or so to a
situation closely similar to that of the Fahkahatchee Strand
at the present day. A diverse aquatic and terrestrial fauna
will re-develop, and native orchids and bromeliads would
survive and proliferate. Groundwater supplies would be
re-established, and the current adverse effects on marine
resources would be 'reduced.
16. The Golden 'Gate Estates area can be modified
and managed to accommodate urban development, agricultural
operations:aid recreational activities, while assuring adequate
aquifer recharge and restoring and protecting certain valuable
natural resource features. This can be achieved by manipulation
of water levels and by largely restricting each of these
activities to specific land areas.
17. Residential activities would most logically occur
north of S. R. 84 and West of Everglades Boulevard where
surface flooding is less frequent and can be controlled by
existing canals. ;A total of 40,000 acres have been suggested
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for such use. The Golden Gate "Highlands", which constitute
the major portion of this area, are neither important recharge
areas nor significant wildlife habitats.
18. The abandoned farmlands, largely to the north of
Golden Gate Boulevard, could be productively farmed if
efforts to raise ground water levels were successful. Approxi-
mately 20,000 acres of such lands with desirable soils are
available. We see no reason why farming activities should not
be compatible with other uses of the Golden Gate system;
especially since a slow seaward passage of runoff waters,
as envisioned, should allow adequate time for the removal
of most nutrients, pesticides and heavy metals before the
water reaches the southern end of the system.
19. Some form of recreation is the most logical
use of the majority of the land south of S. R. 84. Much
of this area must be flooded for 5 months of the year if
present disastrous trends are to be reversed. The sloughs
of this area are the major groundwater recharge sites within
the system, and they can serve as overflow and surface water
storage areas during extremely wet periods.
20. No further canal construction should be con-
sidered. The proposed easternmost canal to drain the Golden
Gate Gardens poses a potential threat to the Fahkahatchee
system since it will cut through the intervening rock ridge
and may also prove capable of drawing subsurface water west-
ward through porous strata.
21. Efforts should be directed toward delaying the
"normal" rainy season flow of water seaward; thus extending
the hydroperiod and creating a longer period during which
recharge can occur. This could.perhaps be achieved by a
series of control structures and solid plugs to cause over-
flow and diversion of water from the canals into adjacent
sloughs and cypress forest (see Figure 21), particularly south
of S. R. 84.
22. Advantage should be taken of the natural major
slough system which flows from northwest to southeast through
the system. As much water as possible should be diverted to
this flow-way during low flow periods.
23. Runoff from the extreme north of the system which
presently is conveyed westward to Naples Bay by the Golden
Gate Canal, should be diverted to the southeast into the
natural flow-way; thus reducing the undesirably high volume
of freshwater which currently enters Naples Bay.
24. Since much of the Golden Gate Estates are
presently uninhabited it may be possible to assess the validity
of the water management concept simply by pushing large
earthen plugs into the canals at the locations indicated in
Figure 21. Although some of these may need to be relocated
or replaced by automatic control structures at a later date,
they are relatively inexpensive to create or remove.
25. Canalization and simultaneous weir control to
provide adequate flood protection to scattered single family
residential lots while assuring adequate surface or under-
ground water storage is inordinately expensive. This can be
avoided by adopting a concept of clustered residences,
suitably elevated above flood levels, and by utilizing
extensive natural areas for overflow and flood storage.
26. The major objective of this early phase of the
Golden Gate redevelopment planning program has been to develop
an understanding of the workings and functions of the biological
and physical system, and thus to suggest compatible land use
concepts and water management strategies. We are confident
that, if the legal problems can be equitably resolved, the
concept is valid and the required physical modifications to
the drainage system would be relatively inexpensive.
27. We strongly recommend that the water management
concept be carefully examined by qualified hydrological engineers,
that geological and hydrological work be conducted to confirm
I ._.... 111
the recharge potential of specific areas, and that further
legal opinions be obtained regarding the concepts presented
here. Above all, the urgency of the situation should be
stressed. Valuable fresh water reserves could be lost forever
if the planned development proceeds to completion. In the
meantime, continued loss of organic soils as a result of
severe fires could preclude recovery of the desired natural
system even if a belated decision to preserve them is rendered.
In our opinion, with the exception of the Okeechobee-Kissimmee
Basin, the overdrainage of the Golden Gate Estates area presents
a greater threat to human and natural systems than any other
currently existing situation in south-central Florida.
The professional staff of Tropical Biolndustries
Development Company is proud to have been selected to perform
the initial phase of what will hopefully become a steady
progression toward the reversal of earlier water management
trends. We earnestly hope that the information presented
here, and the interpretations we have placed upon that
information, will be regarded as the initial step in imple-
mentation of responsible land usage. We believe that
multiple usage of this 175 square mile area of the county
can be compatible with its restoration and maintenance as
a functioning natural system.
It will become apparent to the reader that this
report contains many statements of a speculative nature.
This is particularly true of the discussions of the complex
interrelationships between soils, underlying rock formations,
surface and groundwater flow patterns. The necessity to
speculate on the manner in which some natural resource systems
in Golden Gate function is a consequence of the dearth of
scientific interest hitherto expressed in the Golden Gate
If discussion were restricted to the currently
available scant data pertaining specifically to Golden Gate
and surrounding lands the end result would be a descriptive
narrative of little practical value. It was, therefore,
thought necessary to go beyond the bounds of existing
information and to try to explain the workings of an
ill-understood system. Only in this way can the results of
past actions be interpreted and serve as indicators of the
consequences of future activities.
We are indebted to countless people for help andi'
encouragement, without which our task would have been
difficult and onerous. Above all, major credit should go
_ __ __
to successive chairmen Mr. Norman Bacon and Mr. Robert
Forsythe, and the members of the Golden Gate Study Committee,
whose enthusiasm and persistence are the mainstay of this
project. We extend our special thanks to Mr. J. T. McDaniel
of the County Planning Staff for his prompt and efficient
responses to our requests for limited circulation documents
and a host of other obscure maps or reports. We have also
benefitted considerably from the local knowledge which both
Mr. McDaniel and Dr. Iver Brook freely imparted.
Mr. Earl Sanborn, County Civil Defense pilot, is
to be commended for his special skills and admirable patience
during the long helicopter flight hours necessary for the
detailed vegetation survey. We are extremely grateful to
Mr. Don Lander, the County Agricultural Agent, for his lucid
explanation of farming practices and his patience in listening
to our ideas. Mr. Ted Smallwood of Black, Crow and Eidsness
was, as always, helpful and encouraging. We thank Mr. Randolph
Swaim for his descriptions of the area during the early 1940's,
and Dr. Frank C. Craighead, Sr. for his valuable help and
advice. Finally, we would like to express our appreciation
to Messrs. Irving Berzon, Mike Duever, Mel Lehman, Neno Spagna,
Richard Woodruff and Bernie Yokel for their constant interest