July 9, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the C-139 Annex Restoration Project (also known as the Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie) in Hendry County. The project will provide benefits to groundwater, surface water and water supply as well as complement other efforts to improve water quality for the Everglades’ Western Basins region.
“The department is committed to working closely with the South Florida Water Management District to restore the Everglades and the larger South Florida ecosystem,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. “This project will provide numerous benefits and significantly improves water flows to the Everglades’ Western Basins region.”
The project’s goals include restoring 17,904 acres of former citrus groves; restoring natural wet prairie habitat; expanding habitat area for native plant and animal species; promoting the restoration of a self-sustaining ecosystem; and maintaining the current level of flood protection for surrounding properties while contributing to the improvement of water quality in the Everglades. Historically, environmental features on the site included an Everglades mosaic of wet prairie, sloughs, depression marshes and tree islands, as well as a drier prairie, wet flatwoods, oak hammocks and cypress swamp.
To restore the site, which is located north of the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in the Western Basins region, work will encompass removing citrus trees and other agricultural features, backfilling of Lateral Canal L-15, controlling exotic/invasive vegetation and making drainage refinements. This will be followed by large-scale planting of native vegetation that was historically present on the C-139 Annex Restoration Project site.
The restoration will occur in two major phases, with the completion of the first smaller phase supplying the native plant material for the much larger second phase. It is anticipated that the major restoration work will begin in 2015 and be completed by 2020. Once restoration is completed, the site will be evaluated for recreational opportunities compatible with permitting requirements and the purposes of the project.