"It blew my mind," says Doebler, founder of VolunteerCleanup.org, which organizes shoreline clean
The image illustrates what Doebler says is a major problem. In canals across the region, booms meant to keep powerful dams clear catch huge amounts of garbage that he says is rarely removed. When the floodgates open, he says, some of it makes its way into the bay.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the canals, tells New Times a "routine maintenance program" has been in place for years to deal with the issue. He says very little trash gets through the booms.
But Doebler points to a photo he took showing garbage that clearly made it past a boom and collected in front of a dam.
"That trash doesn't go backwards," he says. "Once those gates open, that trash flows out with the water."
Garbage in the ocean has long been a concern. It threatens wildlife by ending up in the stomachs of birds, turtles, and fish that mistake it for food. One study, by the nonprofit World Economic Foundation, shows there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Doebler, whose group has picked up nearly 117,000 pounds of debris, has seen the problem firsthand. For several years, he's spent weekends pulling Styrofoam, plastic water bottles, and other debris from South Florida's waterways.
He says refuse in the bay ends up in places such as E. Albert Pallot Park, where piles of it recently sat along the shore. Ironically, the trash-strewn park beside the Julia Tuttle Causeway was named for an environmentalist.
"It was like, Oh my gosh, this looks like a Third-World country," Doebler says. "But it was right here in the waters of multimillion-dollar properties."
one used in Baltimore.
"They are a choke point where everything comes through," he says, "and they have the opportunity to capture it like nobody else can."