CLEWISTON, FL. -- Work to restore a former Hendry county citrus grove back to Everglades habitat is set to begin with a construction contract approved this week by the South Florida Water Management District.
The project is shaded in red.
Known as the Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie C-139 Annex Restoration Project, the approximately 15,000-acre site in Hendry County will be restored to an expansive wet prairie system with scattered cypress domes, tree island hammocks and sloughs. The restoration effort is designed to attract wildlife back to the site, including hares, turkeys, hawks, eagles, bobcats, black bears and panthers and benefit the groundwater, surface water and water supply of the area.
“Returning this land back to its former nature will bring vast benefits for wildlife and overall Everglades ecology,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “As the site is adjacent to our treatment wetlands, restoring it will help connect natural areas across an expansive region.”
JMS Construction Services, the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, was awarded the approximately $1.5 million contract. This initial phase of construction entails site preparation, including:
· Removal and replacement of existing infrastructure such as metal pipes
· Removal of 247 8-inch diameter drainage culverts
· Abandonment of 15 irrigation wells
· Demolition and removal of associated concrete pads and piping
The Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie property is situated between the Seminole Tribe of Florida Big Cypress Reservation and Stormwater Treatment Area 5/6 in southeastern Hendry County.
At the District’s invitation, the Seminole Tribe chose to name the property the Sam Jones/Abiaki Prairie after their great spiritual leader and hero (known by both names), who was thought to have lived on the property.
Several tribal maps indicate his 19th century village was at the crossroads of numerous historical trails located on this site. The District is coordinating with leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida on the restoration effort of this environmentally sensitive land.