Kissimmee River Water Quality Improvement
The Kissimmee River Water Quality Improvement project is situated on a private cattle ranch, just outside Basinger, Florida in Okeechobee County. The subject property lies within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area; the region is still rural, and the cattle ranches that dominate the area support a wide array of imperiled wildlife species and an enduring way of life.
Our project ranch is a 2,150-acre cattle ranch strategically located in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed, adjacent to the Kissimmee River. Due to its location, the property has high significance for protecting high quality downstream surface waters and is critical to watershed protection, wildlife corridors and enhanced ecological function within the Kissimmee River Basin. The project site includes critical habitat for an array of biodiversity, including Florida Sandhill Crane, Florida Mottled Duck, Florida Burrowing Owl, Audubon’s Crested Caracara, Short-tailed Hawk and Swallow-tailed Kite, Eastern Indigo Snake, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Black Bear, and the Florida Panther.
The Kissimmee River Restoration Project has been called a “thin-blue-line” of restoration, meaning the restoration is focused only on the floodplain. This dispersed water management project will ensure that the historic wetlands are preserved so they are able to naturally hold and clean water before it flows into the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee. A flowage easement will allow ranchers to divert water from the river during extreme high flows and store it on their land, protecting downstream areas from flooding impacts, reducing downstream pollution, and recharging shallow groundwater tables. Florida Conservation Group is working with ranchers to implement these important water quality projects, with assistance from National Wildlife Refuge Association and in consultation with Audubon Florida.
By protecting the floodplain from land uses that would reduce flow and pollute the watershed with toxic runoff, the project will contribute to a healthier water quality, quantity, and storage for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed.
* Project restores natural hydrologic conditions to facilitate improved capture and infiltration of surface water and groundwater recharge