The Picayune Strand project was the first of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) components to begin construction. It is now close to becoming one of the first fully completed CERP projects. Picayune Strand is one of the biggest ecological restoration efforts in the Everglades. It restores more than 80,000 acres of habitat onsite with another 80,000 acres of wetlands and estuaries restoration in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve, and Collier-Seminole State Park.
Turning hundreds of miles of old roads and canals in this former Florida swamp swindle wasteland back into prime Wood Stork and Florida Panther habitat is near completion. The third and final pump station, Miller Pump Station, is scheduled for completion later this year. The entire eastern side of Picayune Strand (Merritt Canal eastward) will be completed this summer with the filling of the eastern Stair-Step canals and removal of the remaining roads.
The last major piece – the Southwestern Protection Levee and Seepage Canal to keep private farmlands from flooding – is stuck in planning. Delays pushed its completion date to 2024 from the original 2021 estimate. Even though 90 percent of restoration work is complete in Picayune, only 30 percent of the ecological benefits are realized until this one feature is completed. Audubon is pushing hard to finalize the design plans sooner and secure $35 million in federal appropriations to finish the project. Just this winter, birdwatchers saw thousands of wading birds and White Pelicans gathered daily in the restored areas of Picayune. Birds tell us that restoration works in Picayune!