SFWMD buys land for Lake Hicpochee enhancement

This photo, taken in February 2018, shows the ongoing construction of the Lake Hicpochee Shallow Hydrologic Enhancement Project, which is expected to be completed in October.

WEST PALM BEACH — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board on April 12 approved the purchase of 2,510 acres in Glades County that will expand the ongoing Lake Hicpochee Shallow Hydrologic Enhancement Project. This project will benefit the Caloosahatchee River, Estuary and watershed by adding opportunities for water storage.

“It’s simple math, really. More completed projects mean more water storage opportunities,” said SFWMD Governing Board member Jaime Weisinger. “Some might glance over this as just another approval to purchase land, but in fact this action ushers in an important restoration project to benefit the Caloosahatchee River.”

SFWMD began construction of the first 670 acres in April 2017. This $18.4 million project adds approximately 1,500 acre-feet of shallow water storage while improving the area’s ecology. The first phase is expected to be completed in October of this year.

The 2,510-acre purchase from A. Duda & Sons Inc. uses funds specifically appropriated by the Florida Legislature in 2016. This acreage could provide another estimated 9,000 acre-feet of shallow storage for local stormwater and Lake Okeechobee regulatory releases that would otherwise go into the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

Additionally, SFWMD is in the process of building the massive C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir farther downstream. Once completed, this reservoir will be able to store another 170,000 acre-feet of water and serve as the primary recovery strategy for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary minimum flows and minimum water levels.

“All the pieces of the restoration puzzle are beginning to come together,” Ms. Weisinger said. “The parcels, including Lake Hicpochee, all fit together to restore and protect the health and beauty of the Caloosahatchee Estuary for future generations.”

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