Water Managers Begin Everglades Restoration Project In Hendry County

Feb 9, 2016

The 15,000 acre project site is shaded red in this map.
Credit The South Florida Water Management District

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.

The South Florida Water Management District purchased this property from U.S. Sugar about three years ago. It plans to restore that plot back to its original form.

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.