~ Project phase will mitigate potential impacts on manatees as freshwater inflows are reduced~
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to continue the next phase of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP), which will restore historic water flow and enhance wetlands in the western Everglades.
The PSRP is a project component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, commonly called CERP. Once completed, the PSRP will reestablish historic water flows, reduce unnatural freshwater inflows, improve the water quality of coastal estuaries and restore ecological connectivity in the area.
“This project exemplifies the department’s dedication to protecting Florida’s Everglades and the larger south Florida ecosystem,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. “The department will continue to work closely with our state and federal partners to ensure that Everglades restoration continues.”
This next phase of the PSRP — the Manatee Mitigation Feature — is essential for completion of future PSRP efforts. Located on Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve lands, this phase will create a connection to warm groundwater by constructing a small oxbow lake on the western edge of the Faka Union Canal that will provide a warm water refuge that can support over 200 manatees. Manatees seek out warm water in this area during the colder months of the year, and this refuge will be important as freshwater flows into the Port of Islands Basin are reduced when the Faka Union and Miller canals are plugged in a subsequent phase of the PSRP.
“Each phase of the PSRP is an important step toward reconnecting the Everglades ecosystem,” said Blake Guillory, executive director of the SFWMD. “Restoration of Picayune Strand will provide significant environmental benefits, including replenishment of the state’s water supplies and added protection against saltwater intrusion.”
PSRP aims to reverse the effects of a failed residential development that partially drained the area during the 1960s. By plugging 48 miles of canals, which will include the Faka Union and Miller canals, and removing 250 miles of crumbling roads, the project will remove water blockages and restore flow to 55,000 acres of Picayune Strand. As a result, restored wetlands will create essential habitat for a variety of natural vegetation and wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.
PSRP is a coordinated effort between many agencies including the United States Army Corps of Engineers, SFWMD, Florida Forest Service, the Department’s Office of Ecosystem Projects, Florida Coastal Office, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Division of State Lands, as well as United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.