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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District hope to bring the Loxahatchee River back to its former glory, to a time before canals, levees and development broke up the natural flow of water.
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"Right now, the flows are about 60 percent of what they should be, and with this project we’re able to get to about 91 percent of those flows," said Andrew LoSchiavo, Restoration and Resources Section Chief in the Planning and Policy Division of USACE. "That’ll help improve conditions to preserve those cypress trees."
The USACE has been working on this $473 million plan for several years with the SFWMD to restore the Loxahatchee River Watershed.
"The Loxahatchee River is not meeting its minimum flows and requirements, so it’s suffering," said Eric Summa, Chief of Planning and Policy for the USACE.
The agency held a public meeting Friday morning at the SFWMD office on Gun Club Rd. in Palm Beach County to get public comment on the proposed project.
"The efforts that are being made now for improving the flow on the Loxahatchee River are very exciting because they’re going to try to bring the river back to the levels where it was historically, and this is a very important river for the area for a number of reasons," said Michael Howard, a Board Member for the Northeast Everglades Trails Association.
The restoration plan includes a variety of projects around the watershed, which would increase the flow of water in Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River, as well as restore area wetlands.
"In the 40's, 50's, and 60's, the federal government and the state of Florida developed a lot of drainage canals to make Florida more habitable for people and agricultural purposes," said Summa. "It worked really well. There was an unintended consequence in that we lost a lot of the flow of water that normally had gone into the Loxahatchee River."
One proposed project is a reservoir that would store freshwater that could then be put into the river when it's low during the dry season. Summa said flood prevention methods will still be in place.
The Loxahatchee River has a federal designation as a National Wild and Scenic River.
Congress will have to approve the plan once it is finalized. The state and the federal government would split the cost.
To find out more about the project or to submit a comment, click here.