Project Summary: The project is located in southern Lee County and is the western boundary of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). The environmentally sensitive area east of Bonita Springs has been altered by the construction of roads, house pads, agricultural berms and ditches. These alterations have resulted in restriction of historical sheetflow, unnatural water impoundment and flooding, increased pollutant loading to the Imperial River and Estero River, and disruption of natural wetland functions. The project involves acquisition of approximately 4,670 acres and restoration of historic sheetflow by removal of canals and road berms, home pads and ditches. The project also included the replacement of the Imperial Bonita Estates Bridge and the modifications to the Kehl Canal Weir.
The project is divided into the following 3 phases: Phase I consist of construction of the Kehl Canal Weir Modification. (completed) Phase II consists of land acquisition and restoration of historic flows over Sections 25, 26, 35, 36 and the SE 1/4 of Section 24, T47S, R26E, approximately 2,720 acres. Phase III consists of land acquisition and restoration of historic flows over Sections 32, 33 and 34, T47S, R26E and the flowway starting at Section 32 downstream to Matheson Street, approximately 2,040 acres. The estimated project cost is $26.1 Million, of which $12.1 million will be cost-shared under a PCA with the Corps and the remaining $14 million for land acquisition will be cost-shared under a separate agreement with the US Department of Interior.
Summary of Work Completed: As of July 31, 2002, the total project acreage acquired is 2,959.30 acres. There are an additional 53 acres under contract.
Project Purpose: The purpose of this project is to achieve ecosystem restoration of 4,670 acres in the southern Flint Pen Strand region of Lee County and reestablish the natural historical flow-way to Estero Bay. Two side benefits of the restoration would be reestablishment of natural flood protection and natural aquifer recharge. The urgency of this project is the lands proposed for acquisition have been divided into 5 and 10-acre tracts that are being developed as single family homes. This new development will require improved roads and other infrastructure including 2’ to 3’ of fill material for the house pad and elevated yards that will adversely impact the ecosystem further.
Location: The proposed site is in South Lee County. It consists of approximately seven and one quarter sections of land north of Bonita Beach Road starting approximately one mile east of I-75. The project includes the next three sections north of Bonita Beach Road traveling east, continuing east two sections north and finally two and one quarter sections north. This site also contains the headwaters of the Imperial River. The seven and one quarter sections are divided into 5 and 10-acre tracts, containing approximately 800 proposed home sites. The flow-way contains single family home sites.
Description of Project: This project involves acquisition and restoration of 4,670 acres in the southern Flint Pen Strand region of Lee County, which has been added to the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) project and a flow way cross section to Estero Bay. The lands proposed for acquisition have been divided into 5 and 10-acre tracts that are slowly being developed by single family homes that cause an accumulative impact. These sites meet the Notice General Permit criteria because of the different ownership’s and size of the lots. The roads and house pads block the surface water flow and impact the environmentally sensitive area around the Imperial River and its headwaters. During the summer of 1995, approximately 1700 people were evacuated from this project area and adjacent lands to the west. Currently, the possibility exists for an additional 800 to 1000 single-family homeowners to construct homes in this area. Even after the much publicized flooding, the area is still growing at a rapid rate. There is a great deal of pressure from the surrounding business community to develop a secondary levee system to provide additional flood protection to these home sites and allow continuation of single-family home development that would further impact the natural system. Based on past experience with areas such as the 8.5 Square Mile Area, it is clear that the level of protection offered by this type of construction is not substantial; the homes ultimately flood and agencies are left with buy-out as the only option after homes have been constructed. This proposal is to buy the impacted region before more housing is constructed and causes additional harm to the environmental area.
Environmental Features: The purpose of this project is to acquire these land parcels (approximately 44 are currently occupied by residents) before further residential development creates more negative impacts on the adjacent wetlands and downstream estuaries, and before a large perennial flooded landscape residential area is developed. Along with planned infrastructure changes, the intent of this project is to: 1) preserve the water storage potential provided by the natural attributes of these lands; 2) re-establish historical flows across these lands currently impeded by roads and residential structures - this will avoid forcing more water in these areas which could harm natural wetlands by increasing depth and duration; 3) restore the historical flow-way of the Imperial River by removing structures and filled areas; 4) reduce existing loads of nutrients and other pollutants to the Imperial River (e.g., septic, fertilizers, pesticides) and preclude the exacerbation of this pollution through increased development; and 5) preclude the development of another flood-prone residential development similar to the 8.5 Square Mile Area.