Deepwater Horizon oil spill NRDA project awarded
The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership recently was awarded the first Deepwater Horizon oil spill NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment) project award in Southwest Florida. The project was approved for funding by the Florida Trustee Implementation Group (FL TIG) in the Final Restoration Plan 1 and Environmental Assessment (RP1/EA) finalized in March.
The CHNEP submitted the proposed project for the funding in collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District, which coordinates the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative (CHFI) – the larger hydrological restoration effort that this project will support. The FL TIG then selected the Lower Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Hydrologic Restoration Planning Project as one of the 23 preferred projects in the RP1/EA the first NRDA project in Southwest Florida. The CHNEP has entered into a funding agreement to accept the funds and now is in the procurement process to initiate the project.
Development, including the construction of major roadways such as US 41 and Interstate 75, has altered the historic sheet flow from the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA) through the Yucca Pens Unit WMA down to the tidal creeks and into the Charlotte Harbor and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The funding of over a half million dollars will assist with the development of a science-based Strategic Hydrological Planning Tool. The tool will provide guidance to resource management agencies as related to the appropriate restoration and management of surface waters currently flowing from the Babcock-Webb and Yucca Pens Unit WMAs through tidal creeks discharging into eastern Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchee River. Extensive data collection, as well as mapping and modeling, will be used to determine the timing, distribution and quantity of water needed to improve the historic surface water flows west to tidal creeks and canals that flow into eastern Charlotte Harbor, as well as creeks and numerous canals that flow south into the Caloosahatchee.
The larger CHFI hydrological restoration effort that the project supports will involve redirecting freshwater flows that are artificially impounded east of I-75 in the Babcock Cecil Webb WMA and unnaturally blocked and diverted from Charlotte Harbor, Cape Coral and the Caloosahatchee, back to where they historically flowed and are needed. The CHFI is a multi-agency effort with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest and South Florida Water Management districts, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Lee and Charlotte counties, city of Cape Coral, CHNEP and others. Some land needed for the restoration has already purchased by the state on the east side of I-75 to store and redirect flows through the Yucca Pens WMA and into the Gulf of Mexico.