South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group

Annual Report 1996



[1996 Accomplishments] [1996 Initiatives] [1997 Goals]

a. Ecosystem Problems and Restoration Objectives

Ecological impacts in the Kissimmee basin include diminished floodplain habitat diversity, reduction of wading bird populations, and loss of fishery forage and riverine fish species.

The impacts of flood control, navigation, agriculture, and development in the Kissimmee basin are well documented. The impacts of channelization are significant. In addition to direct physical destruction of the river and floodplain habitat from canal excavation and deposition of soil, channelization has impacted the basin primarily by altering hydrologic regimes. The nature and rate of energy exchange between the river and floodplain also have been disturbed, affecting the functional integrity of the system. Lack of flow has degraded water quality, caused excessive sedimentation, diminished habitat quality and diversity, and degraded biological communities. The impacts of channelization were quickly recognized, and calls for restoration of the river began before the Kissimmee River Flood Control Project was complete. Several major studies have been conducted to evaluate restoration alternatives. A collaborative effort of numerous Federal and State agencies reached the conclusion that re-establishing a fully functional river and floodplain required recovery of the natural hydrologic regime. That could only be done by backfilling a long, continuous section of C-38, connecting the remnant portions of the original river, and delivering water from the upper basin in a manner that mimics the natural system.

Efforts are now underway to restore the ecological integrity of the River and flood plain by implementing these recommendations. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project is the world's largest such effort and the first of its kind in the United States.


b. 1996 Accomplishments

Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization

Completed and approved Headwaters Revitalization Project Modification Report and Supplemental EIS which presents the detailed plans for necessary modifications to the water management system for Lakes Kissimmee, Cypress, and Hatchineha.

Completed an extreme drawdown of water levels in Lake Kissimmee which enabled:

  1. Removal of one million yards of muck from the lake bottom;
  2. Burning of 10,000 acres of emergent marsh;
  3. Chemical treatment of 983 acres of exotic vegetation;
  4. Removal of 2.5 tons of trash from the lake; and
  5. Removal of undesirable floating vegetation ("tussocks").

Obtained dredge and fill permit/water quality certification for Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization Project.

Kissimmee Restoration Project

Completed acquisition on 14,432 acres in 1996. Of the 94,404 acres of land needed for the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, 72,660 acres are now under public ownership.

c. 1996 Initiatives

Land Acquisition

Initiated plans to create a 48,000-acre state park to preserve the Kissimmee Prairie ecosystem, the last remaining habitat of its type in Florida. The state park will combine an 11,700-acre parcel purchased from the Latt Maxcy Corporation in 1996 as part of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project with another 36,660-acre parcel known as the Kissimmee Prairie Ecosystem purchased during the winter of 1996-97.

Kissimmee Restoration Project

Initiated new studies to establish baseline (pre-construction) conditions on floodplain vegetation, groundwater, amphibians, reptiles, wading birds, waterfowl and other avian groups in addition to ongoing fish and invertebrate studies. These baseline studies are part of a comprehensive ecological evaluation program for measuring the success of the restoration project in reestablishing the ecological integrity of the Kissimmee River ecosystem.

Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization

Initiated planning for the Alligator Chain of Lakes Drawdown and Restoration Project.

d. 1997 Goals

Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization

Award construction contract for modification of S-65 in the upper basin.

Establish a Cypress Creek/Butler Chain of Lakes Management Unit (a component of the South Florida Ecosystem Management Area).

Establish a Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Management Unit Team (a component of the South Florida Ecosystem Management Area).

Kissimmee Restoration Project

Award construction contracts for Pool A spoil removal and removal of local levees in the lower basin.

Floating aquatic vegetation, tussocks, being removed during extreme drawdown of Lake Kissimmee. Removal process in the river

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