Sa­van­nas Pre­serve restora­tion be­gins

Project’s goal is to man­age flood­ing in the wa­ter­shed area.

The Palm Beach Post - Neighborhood Post - Northern Palm Beach County - - Front Page - By Michelle Pi­asecki Special to The Palm Beach Post

Martin Count y of­fi­cials have started ef­forts to re­store the Sa­van­nas Pre­serve State Park that strad­dles St. Lu­cie and Martin coun­ties.

For the first step, of­fi­cials are plan­ning a com­puter model to bet­ter un­der­stand the big pic­ture in or­der to make any im­prove­ments to the en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive land.

That hy­dro­log­i­cal model will show how wa­ter flows from Fort Pierce to the Sa­van­nas Pre­serve as the sys­tem ex­ists to­day, said Dianne Hughes, Martin County ecosys­tem spe­cial­ist and man­ager for the project.

To d o t h a t wo r k , t h e count y has hired Stuar tbased con­sult ant Captec Engi­neer­ing, Inc.

The big­gest chal­lenge has been the num­ber of cities and coun­ties that over­see the ar­eas through which the wa­ter flows. In fact, wa­ter ends up in three ma­jor ar­eas — the In­dian River La­goon Aqu a t i c P r e s e r ve t o t h e north; the Hog Pen Slough and the North Fork St. Lu­cie River Aquatic Pre­serve to the west; and Warner Creek and the St. Lu­cie River Es­tu­ary to the south.

Thi s model will put all t hose pi e c e s to ge t her i n or­der to see how changes might im­pact any area within this region.

“We are cob­bling to­gether other smaller mod­els that en­ti­ties have de­vel­oped for spe­cific spa­tial projects,” Hughes said.

One of the steps in this process is get­ting in­put from area res­i­dents, but since a to­tal of eight people showed up at the pub­lic meet­ing on April 12 and 17, Hughes said they wel­come any ad­di­tional in­put to help the model be as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble.

She said one rea­son for t he poor t ur n- out might have been Easter hol­i­day or the lack of rain — people cur­rently aren’t ex­pe­ri­enc­ing flood­ing or any of the other is­sues this project could re­solve.

County of­fi­cials are look­ing for any concerns that area res­i­dents no­tice such as flood­ing or parts of the Sa­van­nas that seem overly wet, overly dry or in need of habi­tat restora­tion.

Hughes said they started pub­lic meet­ings to get help in iden­ti­fy­ing and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the wa­ter qual­ity is­sues and prob­lems in and around the 22,000 acre wa­ter­shed.

The need for a hy­dro­logic al model isn’t any thing new. Hughes said people have known about the need since the 1990s to re­solve flood­ing and other is­sues.

This phased pro­jec t fo­cuses on al­le­vi­at­ing com­mu­nity flood­ing, op­ti­miz­ing wa­ter man­age­ment op­er­a­tions and im­prov­ing nat­u­ral habi­tats as well as wa­ter qual­ity.

About $100,000 of the pro­jec t is paid for with a g r a n t f ro m I n d i a n Rive r La­goon Na­tional Es­tu­ary Pro­gram. That is about one-third of Captec’s to­tal $291,500 con­tract. The rest of the cost is paid for with tax dol­lars.

The en­gi­neers are in the data-gath­er­ing stage of the process. Then, the pre­lim­i­nary engi­neer­ing for 30 per­cent of the model de­sign is due in two months with 60 Sa­van­nas turns 40, per­cent of the model de­sign due four months af­ter that point.

The com­put­er­ized model is ex­pected to be com­plete by Fe­bru­ary.

The goal is that the model will help make an im­pact on flood­ing and pos­si­bly wa­ter qual­ity; although the model doesn’t have a wa­ter qual­ity com­po­nent at this time, Hughes said.

“We believe this will help make i mprove ment s o n many fronts,” Hughes said.

Res­i­dents who want to pro­vide in­put can call Hughes at 772-219-4980, or email her at dhughes@martin.fl.us.

CON­TRIB­UTED

A hand­ful of res­i­dents at­tended the in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing process for the Sa­van­nas restora­tion project on April 12 in Jensen Beach. The in­for­ma­tion from res­i­dents can help en­gi­neers gather de­tails about any prob­lems with wa­ter flow through­out the region.

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