First major feature for Western Everglades Restoration Project

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez
Published: Updated:

The Key Everglades Restoration Project broke ground this week.

“We’re on that mission to restore the environment. We’re getting incredible funding at the moment. And so, the progress is happening,” said Drew Bartlett with the South Florida Water Management District.

The project is a first of its kind and will use 3 different culverts to help with water restoration and water quality.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time. And it’s finally happening. It’s all part of the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan, which was authorized back in 2000,” said Chauncey Goss, also with SFWMD.

Drew Bartlett is executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.

“Here we used to see super colonies of nesting birds like 100,000 to 200,000 nests every two to three years out there reproducing birds that we all love to see. And that just wasn’t happening with this road and everything cut off,” Bartlett added.

The culverts will be placed within what’s called the β€œL-28” south levee in order to allow controlled flow westward and eastward. Crews started work in January, and the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes said they’ve been asking for this for some time now.

“What it’s doing is it’s freeing up water in the Everglades,” Goss explained. “Ultimately, there are fewer discharges out of Lake Okeechobee, down the Caloosahatchee River. And that impacts us greatly, particularly in Fort Myers and Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, and Cape Coral, those areas.

This is the starting line of a years-long project and they have support from partners from the local level to Congress, but why is it important?

“There’s the Central Everglades and there’s the Western Everglades, which intersects with Big Cypress. The problem is, our flood control system cut them off, made them separate and distinct. What we’re trying to do is restore the landscape, get the water flowing across both landscapes and down to Florida Bay where it’s cut off by us 41,” said Bartlett.

Crews are hard at work and the project itself is expected to be completed in 2027.

For more information on the restoration, click here.

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