Challenge. Evaluate effects of varying freshwater inputs on bay temperatures and salinity

Solution. The Apalachicola River watershed, which extends into Alabama and Georgia, serves as the primary source of freshwater inflows into Apalachicola Bay. To assess various inflow scenarios from the upland watershed and the effects of each scenario on the complex and intricate ecosystem of Apalachicola Bay, including the oyster and sturgeon populations, the NWFWMD retained INTERA to develop a 3-dimensional hydrodynamic model of the bay. INTERA selected, developed, calibrated, and verified the most appropriate hydrodynamic code, the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), to evaluate the impacts on the ecosystem resulting from different freshwater inflows. In addition, we assessed the effects on bay salinity from closing Sikes Cut (or Government Cut), a small connection between the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay. The model is helping the NWFWMD understand the effects of varying freshwater inputs on bay temperature and salinity which, in turn, directly impact the population of oysters in the bay—which plays an important role in the local, state, and national economy.