Restoration of the Wetlands
By Nan Mattingly, CREW Trust volunteer
Have you ever considered what your life would be like if you didn’t have easy access to water or if you had too much around you?
Restoration of the wetlands of the CREW Flint Pen Strand (FPS) has addressed both issues. Efforts to develop FPS lands for residences since the 1950s reduced the ability of FPS wetlands to function. If water has no place to linger, which is what you need to recharge the aquifer where your drinking water comes from, it must go somewhere.
Without a functioning wetland, water will traverse the FPS lands without stopping and seek lower levels, ending up in the yards and homes of the lower-lying areas of Bonita Springs. Many residents recall a particularly bad year, 1995, when Tropical Storm Jerry flooded east Bonita Springs in August. Just when residents were beginning to return to their homes in October, Hurricane Opal inundated the same area and did more damage. Flooding continues to hamper east Bonita Springs residents even today with the most recent being Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) took on the responsibility of restoring about 5,400 acres of the wetlands of FPS. In some flood-prone areas, a variety of structural changes designed to improve the flow of water and thus reduce flooding have been tried, including ditches, canals, and channels. SFWMD decided that removing roads and culverts as well as treating invasive vegetation would be most effective and less costly to restore the wetlands and let the wetlands do what they do so well – collect water, filter it and let it soak into the aquifer.
The FPS hydrologic restoration project is a slow and labor-intensive effort. The project is ongoing but we are seeing results today thanks to the continued efforts of the SFWMD. Sheet flow (inland water that flows toward lower coastal areas) that once crossed FPS land is now invited to stick around and help recharge the watershed that the 60,000-acre CREW Project exists to protect.
The hydrologic restoration at FPS helps to assure that you’ll have access to water. It also helps to protect the residents of Bonita Springs from flooding. So, the next time you hike one of the FPS trails, take a moment to consider all that the CREW lands do when it comes to water and the flood protection that it provides.