Water managers broke ground Monday on a project to return wetlands in Southwest Florida to their natural state. It’s called the Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie. The plan is to improve water quality in the Everglades.
Historically, the 15,000 acres of land in southeastern Hendry County was a swamp made up of sloughs, marshes, and tree islands. But it later became a working citrus grove. The area was modified with drainage ditches, canals and orange trees.
Phil Flood with the water management district said they will remove any sign of the previous agricultural operation, like pipes and drains.
"The ultimate goal is to enhance the environment, to restore our groundwater system over there, restore the natural systems on the surface. And it's all about sustainability," said Flood. "It’s all about making sure that we will have a wonderful ecology out there and water supply for the future."
This Everglades restoration project is also predicted to attract wildlife, like panthers, eagles and black bears. Flood said he hopes the land will eventually be home to cypress domes and hardwood hammocks again by the year 2020. Once restoration is completed, stakeholders will look at possible public uses for the land.