• Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

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Florida river gets curves back in 22-year, $980m restoration

State and federal officials in Florida are marking a major milestone in a 22-year project to restore a river

Officials involved in the nearly $1 billion Kissimmee River Restoration Project said at an event Thursday that 44 miles (70 kilometers) of the waterway have been returned to its curving path in central Florida.

TC Palm newspapers reported that the Kissimmee River’s restored floodplains and oxbows will help clean water laden with nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff, which has fed harmful algal blooms, plaguing the lake for decades.

“Not only are we keeping water in the watershed and delivering it in the right volumes and frequencies, we’re also connecting with the floodplains where it cleans the water before it heads down into the lake,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Drew Bartlett.

“From a (water) quantity standpoint, it’s a home-run,” he added. “From a quality standpoint it is, too.”

The project’s total cost was estimated at $980 million, split 50-50 between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the water management district.

Now that construction is complete, the next step is to increase storage in headwaters lakes and mimic how the river once naturally flowed. That will be done by 2026, officials said.

“They have made a more resilient river,” said Shannon Estenoz, the U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “A river that is restored is a river that is resilient against external forces.”