St. Lucie River Flow Restoration
The North Fork St. Lucie River (NFSLR) is a dynamic aquatic estuary in southeast Florida. Historically containing a diverse habitat of freshwater riverine oxbows and floodplains, estuary seagrass beds, and oyster bars, this ecosystem provides rich habitat for aquatic species as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. However, the river has experienced substantial modifications to its original floodplain and watershed including straightening during the 1920s for flood control and navigation.
As a result, the river contains abnormally high riverbanks and the adjacent floodplain and river bend oxbows are partially or completely isolated from the river’s mainstream, altering natural hydrologic function and impacting the rich and diverse aquatic habitats and species present. This modified system has exacerbated downstream water quality and clarity in areas that historically support valued estuarine habitats for oysters and seagrasses. Reconnection of these isolated floodplains and oxbows is expected to improve water quality and water clarity, facilitate nutrient uptake, and provide valuable habitat expansions for fish and wildlife dependent on these systems.
To guide conservation, a multi-agency partnership in Florida formed in 2007 completing a hydrologic restoration report that outlined and prioritized 36 locations for floodplain and oxbow restoration. The multi-agency partnership seeks to improve conditions to facilitate oyster reefs, seagrasses, and other vegetation in the NFSLR. Six projects have been completed. The next project will focus on new oxbow reconnection in St. Lucie County adjacent to the Oxbow Eco-center, a county-owned education center. Reconnection of the oxbow will involve the removal of muck and an earthen berm, followed by native along the newly-restored shoreline.
* Project restores natural hydrologic conditions to facilitate improved capture and infiltration of surface water and groundwater recharge