June 29, 2015
LEE COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to continue the next phase of the Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Restoration Project. When completed, the project will provide significant benefits to the ecosystem including restoring wetlands and the natural sheetflow of water, improving regional flood protection drainage, increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability, and reducing the amount of nutrient-rich stormwater reaching the Imperial River and Estero Bay.
“This project exemplifies the commitment of the state of Florida to protecting and restoring the larger south Florida ecosystem,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. “The department will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that restoration continues.”
The authorization issued today is for Phase II of the Southern CREW Restoration Project which encompasses 4,150 acres of multiple native plant communities, including hydric pine flatwoods, strand swamps, wet prairies and marshes that have been fragmented by past construction of ditches and roads. These alterations have resulted in restriction of historic sheetflow, artificial water impoundments and flooding, increased pollutant loading to the Imperial River, an Outstanding Florida Water, and disruption of natural wetland functions.
“The project will restore the southwest corner of the larger CREW project,” said SFWMD Governing Boardmember Rick Barber. “The restoration in this particular location creates a vital buffer area between the CREW project and the eastern urban boundary.”
Phase II of the project consists of ditch backfilling, ditch plugging, road degradation and the construction of low water crossings to allow for the re-establishment of hydrologic conditions similar to those present prior to development attempts of the area in the 1960s. The project is expected to restore approximately 437 acres of wetlands. The project’s enhancements are anticipated to encourage the growth and sustainability of native wetland plant species, providing both food and habitat for wildlife.
The Southern CREW Restoration Project is located in Lee County between the Kehl Canal, which is located adjacent to the northern boundary, east of Interstate 75 and north of Bonita Beach Road.