FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2014
PARTNERSHIP PROVIDES $2 MILLION FOR PEACE RIVER RESTORATION PROJECT
~ Wetland restoration project to rehabilitate Peace River planned ~
WINTER HAVEN – The Department of Environmental Protection has committed approximately $585,000 for a wetland restoration project designed to reduce the nutrient pollution reaching the Peace River. The project will rehydrate currently non-functioning wetlands along Lake Gwyn. The restored wetlands will act as a treatment mechanism for water flowing through the Wahneta Farms Drainage Canal, which eventually discharges into the headwaters of the Peace River.
“This proposal presents multifaceted benefits for the community, the state and the environment,” said Tom Frick, director of the division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The department is enthusiastic about combining our resources with agencies and municipalities interested in water quality restoration, and cooperating to improve valued water bodies like the Peace River.”
In addition to water restoration benefits, the project will increase available habitat for fish and wildlife and provide public education through kiosks on restoration efforts and stormwater management. The Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Polk County Board of County Commissioners are each contributing approximately $621,000 in matching grant funds, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is committing an additional $150,000. The project is expected to substantially reduce the amount of pollutants reaching the Peace River by 69 percent for total phosphorous and 37 percent for total nitrogen.
“The district is very pleased to participate with the DEP and Polk County on this project,” said Eric DeHaven, Natural Systems & Restoration bureau chief for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “We believe restoring the surface water levels will improve water quality, enhance wetland habitat and increase flow attenuation.”
To rehydrate the non-functioning wetlands, the project will divert flow from the Wahneta Farms Drainage Canal. The project will also create a series of wetland pools of varying shape, size and depth to maximize wildlife foraging areas for wading birds, fish and amphibians. A wildlife observation dock will be installed providing educational opportunities for the adjacent elementary school to teach wetland ecology principles on-site. On the perimeter of the project, along trails and boardwalks, signage will be posted to educate visitors on restoration efforts, natural communities and stormwater management. Construction on the project is expected to begin in October.