Savannas Preserve restoration begins
Project’s goal is to manage flooding in the watershed area.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.