Hillsborough Bay, Florida, underwent extensive physical changes between 1880 and 1972 because of the construction of islands, channels, and shoreline fills. These changes resulted in a progressive reduction in the quantity of tidal water that enters and leaves the bay. Dredging and filling also changed the magnitude and direction of tidal flow in most of the bay.
A two-dimensional, finite-difference hydrodynamic model was used to simulate flood, ebb, and residual water transport for physical conditions in Hillsborough Bay and the northeastern part of Middle Tampa Bay during 1880, 1972, and 1985. The calibrated and verified model was used to evaluate cumulative water-transport changes resulting from construction in the study area between 1880 and 1972. The model also was used to evaluate water-transport changes as a result of a major Federal dredging project completed in 1985.
The model indicates that transport changes resulting from the Federal dredging project are much less areally extensive than the corresponding transport changes resulting from construction between 1880 and 1972. Dredging-caused changes of more than 50 percent in flood and ebb water transport were computed to occur over only about 8 square miles of the 65-square-mile study area between 1972 and 1985. Model results indicate that construction between 1880 and 1972 caused changes of similar magnitude over about 23 square miles. Dredging-caused changes of more than 50 percent in residual water transport were computed to occur over only 17 square miles between 1972 and 1985. Between 1880 and 1972, changes of similar magnitude were computed to occur over an area of 45 square miles.
Model results also reveal historical tide-induced circulation patterns. The patterns consist of a series of about 8 interconnected circulatory features in 1880 and as many as 15 in 1985. Dredging- and construction-caused changes in number, size, position, shape, and intensity of the circulatory features increase tide-induced circulation throughout the bay. Circulation patterns for 1880, 1972, and 1985 levels of development differ in many details, but all exhibit residual landward flow of water in the deep, central part of the bay and residual seaward flow in the shallows along the bay margins. This general residual flow pattern is confirmed by both computed transport of a hypothetical constituent and long-term salinity observations in Hillsborough Bay. The concept has been used to estimate the average time it takes a particle to move from the head to the mouth of the bay. The mean transit time was computed to be 58 days in 1880 and 29 days in 1972 and 1985.
This increase in circulation and decrease in transit time since 1880 is estimated to have caused an increase in average salinity of Hillsborough Bay of about 2 parts per thousand. Dredge and fill construction is concluded to have significantly increased circulation and flushing between 1880 and 1972. Little circulation or flushing change is attributed to dredging activity since 1972.