SANIBEL ISLAND – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is making progress in improving ecological conditions in the Caloosahatchee watershed, according to information shared at the March 10 meeting of the South Florida Water Management District.
SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett said the headwaters of Caloosahatchee River is the C-43 canal. He said the first phase of the C-43.
He said the phase 1 of flow equalization basin (FEB) of the Lake Hicpochee Storage and Hydrologic Enhancement Project has been completed. He said this project “holds water and delivers it in a kind way to the environment.”
The first phase covers about 500 acres, he continued. SFWMD is in design for phase 2, which is 2,400 acres of FEB, he said. Water will be pumped from the C-43 canal into the FEB, which will be able to hold about 10,000 acre feet of water, treat it to remove phosphorus, and release the water to the Caloosahatchee River as needed. Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
In addition, the Boma FEB is also in design. This FEB abuts the C-43 canal and will include some research cells to target nitrogen removal.
The C-43 reservoir is also taking shape, Bartlett said. Some berms are complete for the 170,000 acre feet storage reservoir.
He said they have finished feasibility study in partnership with Florida Department of Environmental Protection to come up with a water treatment solution. “It is expected to do an incredible amount of treatment for both nitrogen and phosphorus,” he said.
In Hendry County the Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie Restoration is underway, Barlett said. This is a massive restoration project, he said.
“Former citrus fields are now becoming wetlands habitat,” he explained. Restoration of 2,800 acres was completed in 2019. “The wildlife is flocking to it. It’s an incredible wetlands system,” he said.
Phase 2 will restore another 5,000 acres from a citrus grove into a wetland habitat and has a target completion date of 2028.
“In that same basin, we are building a flow equalization basin. That is a shallow impoundment,” he explained. This is under construction now and will be completed in 2023.
The 55,000 acre Picayune Strand Restoration Project in Collier County is also restoring wetlands. Two of the pump stations have been turned on. The project will be complete in 2025. “It’s an incredible restoration project that has been decades in the making,” Bartlett said. “It was going to be a neighborhood with roads and ditches and everything, and all that is being retrofitted back into a wetlands system with incredible habitat.”