Waterways and Mangroves

Coral Gables offers stunning waterways and protective plants, managed by the Public Works department and assisted by the community.

Beautify Our Waterways Together

City staff performs ongoing assessments to keep our waterways safe and looking beautiful. We also depend on the community's assistance. Some residents may have received a door hanger or other notices for improvements. To discover the best practices for caring for our waterways, please see our resources below. For information on waterway cleanup events and other ways to get involved, visit coralgables.com/keepcoralgablesbeautiful.

Waterways Advisory Board

The Waterways Advisory Board encourages all to participate in the meetings to stay informed and provide input. Visit the Boards and Committees page to learn more. Also be sure to check out the community calendar where all city meetings are listed and zoom links provided for remote participation. 

Waterways Maintenance and Buffer Zones

Coral Gables is proud to have over 40 miles of scenic shoreline. We encourage waterway homeowners to plant landscape buffer zones as they play a crucial role in protecting and maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems. These buffer zones are areas of vegetation located along water bodies. The width of these buffer zones can vary, but they typically extend from the water's edge into the surrounding land.

Additionally, landscape buffer zones serve several key functions in waterways, including water quality preservation, erosion control, temperature regulation, flood mitigation, and stormwater management. To elaborate on these roles, vegetation in buffer zones helps improve water quality by reducing the input of nutrients, pesticides, and other contaminants. Plants planted along waterways as buffer zones stabilize the soil with their root systems, which helps prevent erosion along the waterways.

By implementing landscape buffer zones, one also contributes to providing shade that regulates the water's temperature, which is important for species sensitive to temperature changes in these waterways. These zones also absorb and slow down floodwaters, which is crucial during heavy rainfall or storms in South Florida. Landscape buffer zones act as a buffer against stormwater runoff, allowing water to infiltrate the soil and be filtered before reaching the waterways, preventing the introduction of pollutants.

Additionally, landscape buffers enhance the scenic appeal of waterways, providing aesthetically pleasing landscapes. They also create opportunities for recreational activities such as fishing and bird-watching. Public Works recommends using native plants that do not require fertilization or herbicides to remain healthy.

  1. Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco): This native shrub is commonly found in coastal areas. It is salt-tolerant and provides habitat for birds.
  2. Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera):Native shrub that is salt-tolerant and can thrive in both wet and dry conditions. It provides habitat for birds and butterflies.
  3. Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle): A salt-tolerant tree that is well-adapted to coastal environments. Red Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing shorelines and providing habitat for marine life.
  4. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens): A low-growing palm that is well-adapted to a variety of soil conditions. It provides habitat for wildlife and is often used in landscaping.
  5. Firebush (Hamelia patens): A shrub with tubular red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It can tolerate a range of soil conditions.
  6. Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris): A native grass species with feathery pink or purple flower plumes. It is often used for erosion control and landscaping.

Mangroves

Background Information

Three species are native to Florida: Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa).

  • Red mangroves are easily identified by their "prop roots," which are tangled, reddish, aerial roots that originate from the trunk and branches. Their leaves are 1 to 5 inches long, broad and blunt on the tip, shiny, deep green on top, and paler on the underside.
  • Black mangroves can be identified by numerous finger-like projections, called pneumatophores, that protrude from the soil around the tree's trunk. Black mangrove leaves are oblong, shiny green on top and covered with short dense hairs on the underside. Black mangroves are usually found in slightly higher elevations upland from red mangroves.
  • White mangroves have no visible aerial root system like red and black mangroves. The easiest way to identify white mangroves is by the leaves. The leaves are up to 3 inches long, elliptical (rounded at both ends), yellowish in color, and have two distinguishing glands at the base of each leaf blade where the stem begins. White mangroves are usually located in elevations higher and farther upland than either the red or black mangroves.

Value & Functions of Mangroves

  • Mangroves trap and cycle various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients in the coastal ecosystem.
  • Mangroves provide one of the basic food chain resources for marine organisms.
  • Mangroves serve as storm buffers by reducing wind and wave action in shallow shoreline areas.
  • Mangroves provide physical habitat and nursery grounds for a wide variety of marine organisms, many of which have important recreational or commercial value.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, it is estimated that mangroves contribute $7.6 billion annually to the economy and create 109,000 jobs in Florida

Mangrove Trimming

  • Mangroves are protected under Florida State Law.
  • Trimming of most mangroves within Coral Gables will require the services of a Miami-Dade County Certified and Registered Professional Mangrove Trimmer.
  • FDEP List of Professional Mangrove Trimmers

For information on mangrove trimming permits and finding professional mangrove trimmers please contact Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management - DERM, Coastal Section

  • Email: dermcr@miamidade.gov
  • Phone Number: (305) 372-6575
  • Office location: Overtown Transit Village. 701 NW 1st Court, 6th Floor. Miami, Florida 33136

Fines/Penalties for Illegally Cutting Mangroves

For a first violation, property owners may be required to restore the area. For subsequent violations, property owners and the person performing illegal trimming can be fined:

  • Up to $100 for each mangrove illegally trimmed
  • Up to $250 for each mangrove illegally altered

Fish Kill and Algae Bloom

Report fish kill or algae bloom can be reported as follows:

Report environmental complaints 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

City Water Quality Projects

Floating Wetlands Project with FIU

In collaboration with Florida International University (FIU), the city has installed two floating treatment wetlands -- a type of nature-based infrastructure on the waterway along Blue Road and Taragona Drive. These floating mats support plant growth on top of water and uptake the dissolved nutrients that can pollute our canals. Like a wetland where plants help clean the water passing through, these floating mats help clean the water they are placed in. The more the plants grow, the more nutrients they remove also known as phytoremediation. This is a 12-week study that tests the viability of several flowering plants in both fresh and slightly saline canals. To learn more about FIU and Coral Gables water quality research projects, please visit the FIU Wetland Ecosystems Research Lab website.

Virtual Community Discussion on Water and Water Quality

On November 5, 2020 the City of Coral Gables held a virtual community discussion on water and water quality. Below are the presentations and a link to the recording of that meeting.  

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